Pen Pal Program matches volunteers with people in hospice

by Mary Alice Weimer, Kansas City Hospice Volunteer

VolunteerA new Pen Pal Program lets volunteers continue working with hospice patients in a time of social distancing, nursing home lock-downs, and quarantines. As a volunteer for the past 7 years with the NorthCare Team, I have truly missed the in-person interaction of volunteering. At the same time, we need to remind patients that we think of them and care about them. We came up with the idea of going “old school” and the Pen Pal Program is the result. My fellow volunteers and I jumped at the chance to stay in touch! 

There are two parts to the project, one-of-a-kind cards and pen pals to send them.


Artists and crafters make one-of-a-kind greeting cards. Armed with their paints, brushes, and creativity, they brighten the mailboxes for our patients and for those who are working tirelessly to keep the tradition of outstanding care uninterrupted during these unprecedented times. 

Mary Lou Hathaway and Kim Hughes are major contributors to the artistic effort. Both are wonderful artists who generously share their talents. Mary Lou has a long history with Kansas City Hospice. She was the original nurse coordinator for the Start Up Team. Hard to believe now, but it is rumored, at one time, she and the social worker were the only employees. 

Kim Higgins also shares her talents at the  Nelson Atkins Museum here in Kansas City. Her cards showing brightly colored drawings of the world around us, I am sure are most welcome when received. She says she gets her inspiration by painting while sitting in her flower garden.

Pen Pals

I asked some of my fellow volunteers to tell me about their time as Pen Pals. Annie shared “I enjoy choosing the right note cards and the act of handwriting them. I ramble on a bit about my grandsons, my fur babies, and the springtime flowers.” She isn’t able to hear back from patients, both I know her genuine care and concern are most appreciated. She said “I look forward to my next ones!”

“I have 2 pen pals in a nursing home,” said Faye. “Both of them live completely in their rooms. I have written notes to both of them. The oldest lady doesn’t read or write, so I am hoping a nurse or aide reads my notes to her. I include a self-addressed envelope to the other lady and she has responded! We have become real pen pals. I look forward to her notes as much as she likes getting notes from me. I dropped off a note, and a small flower pot, for their windows. Hope it brightens their day.”

Marie said, “My experience, as both a phone friend and a pen pal, have been somewhat a challenge as my patient was unable to speak when I called and my first pen pal passed away.” Not to be discouraged, however, she has a new pen pal and has started to write to her. She is hoping they are able to have more time to communicate with each other and really get to know each other.

And finally, I want to share that I have really enjoyed this project. I have two pen pals, and have sent letters and cards to them during this time. One of my pen pals has actually written back. He is quite a story teller. I have learned about his life and loves. He is looking forward to being able to get back to socializing at his care facility. Interestingly, he writes to me on a typewriter and calls me his “pin pal.” I am hoping to meet both of these dear people once the world says it is okay.

Making a Difference

As you can see, this program is making a difference in the lives of people in our care and for us volunteers, too. Oh, we may not get the instant gratification that comes from actually visiting in person, holding their hands and putting a face with a name.  But we are touching them in other ways. In our noisy, busy world, we can only imagine the joy these folks are getting just to receive a piece of mail, a letter, or a beautiful original piece of art from someone who tells them they are thought of, cared about, and not forgotten. The Hallmark slogan is “When you care enough to send the very best.” I think that Kansas City Hospice could tweak that a little and say “We have volunteers who care enough to send their very best,”

Interested in Helping?

We have so many volunteer opportunities! Find a way to put your special skills to work while helping others. 

About the Author

Mary Alice Wiemer has volunteered with the Northcare Team at Kansas City Hospice for about 7 years.

About Us

The mission of Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care is to bring expert care, peace of mind, comfort, guidance, and hope to people who are affected by life-limiting illness or by grief. Our vision is that each person in our community is valued from life through death and each family is supported in their grief.




  1. ANNIE BRABSON on August 12, 2020 at 10:19 am

    since my first 2 penpals died within weeks, and my current penpals are not able to write back, this was just what i needed to keep on going, realizing that i am, indeed, being helpful. i LOVED seeing those cards, especially the ones with birds on them.

    thank you very much for this article. i miss everyone so much & look forward to next year (?) when we can get back to actually being with one another.


  2. Sara Grier on August 12, 2020 at 6:14 pm

    How touching. I have volunteered for about 8 years at KC Hospice House with my giant Newfoundlands. This sounds like a genuine way to communicate when we can’t tacitly be with the patients and their families.

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