DENVILLE, NJ – Just as the coronavirus pandemic struck Morris County, and long-term care facilities began prohibiting visitors on their premises, Sarah Tubbs, of Montville, sought to send some cheer to the residents of CareOne at Morris in Parsippany through letters of encouragement. Tubbs, a rising junior in the Academy for Education and Learning at Morris County School of Technology in Denville, enlisted the help of approximately 50 classmates to participate in her pen pal campaign.

“I was originally hoping this would be an ongoing endeavor, but it was cut short because the pandemic made it difficult for letters to get to residents in the facility,” said Tubbs.

According to Tubbs, before the height of the pandemic’s impact in Morris County, several rounds of letters circulated between residents and their teen pen pals. “I was sending letters back and forth as soon as I got them,” she said.

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Pen pal participants who agreed to be identified included Kiley Bartalozzi (Pequannock), Emily Frio (Pequannock), Lyla Hatley (Morristown), Litzy Juarez (Bloomingdale), Kyleigh Kennington (Chester), Madison Mautone (Jefferson), Shaan Mody (Parsippany), Christopher Robinson (Denville), Julia Romano (Boonton), and Maddie Tubbs (Montville).

“I initially had hoped that the letters would help and cheer up the residents, but I think it also ended up benefiting the people [who] wrote the letters as well,” Tubbs shared. “While not all the residents wrote back because of the assistance each resident…need[ed] to write a letter, there were connections that were made.”

“[A CareOne employee told] me how thankful the residents were to get the letters, and many came close to tears,” Tubbs recounted. “My pen pal, Martha, wrote back to me, 'Life gave you lemons, you made lemonade. Just make sure you get the credit you deserve because the only way to squeeze a lemon is through hard work.' I think it is an interesting phrase, but I think it [kind of] sums up how most of the community [has come] together through this crazy experience we’re all sharing."


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