How do I join your efforts?
To get started, on the homepage of our website (lettersagainstisolation.com), you will see a large gold/yellow box; please tell us a little about yourself and we will respond with a welcome email. You will receive the link to our sign-up web app. You will use the web app to indicate how many letters you are able to write and to which facility(ies) you will be sending them. Please do not register for Letters Against Isolation or the portal with a school or work email. Once you lose access to that email, we cannot port your account information over to another email address.
Please remember to check your junk folders and, for Gmail users, the Promotions tab, as sometimes LAI emails end up there, especially for new volunteers whose mail system might not recognize our address.
How do I use the signup portal?
Please check out this blog post for portal FAQ's.
How many letters should I write?
To ensure that everyone has a chance to write to a senior, we have a limit of 200 letters or cards per cycle per volunteer. By no means are we expecting you to write 200 letters though! Even writing a couple of letters is greatly appreciated - and encourage your family members, friends, and co-workers to join you! You are under no obligation to write every week, as we want this to be a fun and relaxing volunteer opportunity...it shouldn’t feel like homework!
The portal is full. What do I do?
If the portal shows that we are fully committed for the cycle, rest assured that it will be updated soon (at the very least, a new cycle is released every other Sunday). In the meantime, feel free to continue writing letters to have them ready to go once the new cycle opens with new slots!
Should I decorate my letters?
Absolutely! Feel free to add drawings, washi tape, photographs or use colorful stickers which will catch the eye of each senior recipient.
What’s the senior’s name?
Due to HIPAA privacy laws, we have no personal information about the seniors to whom we are writing; all our letters and cards are distributed randomly by the staff at each facility and we don't expect to hear back from the seniors. It’s best to start your letters with a generic greeting such as “Dear Friend” or “Hello from [your location].”
Can I send my correspondence via email?
Our volunteers send actual handwritten letters and cards to the seniors. We feel it's important for each senior to have a physical letter that they may re-read or display in their room as a reminder that someone is sending them kind thoughts. This is a generation that grew up writing letters and deeply appreciates receiving them in an age where they are no longer common.
What do I write to a complete stranger?
Please check out this blog post, this blog post & this blog post for some great ideas about how to get started. Please remember to sign your first name or a nickname, so that your correspondence feels personal to the senior recipient.
Is there anything I shouldn’t write about?
Please do not share your phone number or email address and please do not discuss politics or religion, as you don’t know about the specific beliefs of each senior. As an inclusive organization, we’ve provided some holiday guidelines here.
I know an elderly person who'd appreciate handwritten letters. Can LAI write to them?
Our organization only sends cards and letters to seniors who reside in long-term care facilities. For reasons of privacy, we can not share individual seniors' addresses. Here are some resources to pursue (1, 2, and 3) - these look to be organizations with a focus on individual seniors and would likely be relevant for the kind of support you are seeking.
Will the seniors write back to me?
Please understand that many seniors may not have the physical ability to respond due to arthritis or visual limitations. Additionally, the senior may not have easy access to writing supplies or stamps. While you may occasionally be pleasantly surprised to receive correspondence from one of our seniors, our volunteers write with no expectation of receiving letters in return.
Where do I send my letters?
You will mail your letters directly to the facility(ies) of your choice; addresses are all on our sign-up portal. All of our correspondence is distributed randomly to the seniors by the staff at each facility.
What about using a return address?
We’ve updated our return address policy due to issues with proper delivery of mail. Please place your return address on all correspondence and write “Letters Against Isolation” across the back flap of your envelope. Please note: if you are not comfortable using your personal address, simply copy the address of the facility into the upper left corner of your envelope...that way your mail is certain to reach its destination!
Can I mail multiple letters together to one location?
Yes! As a rule, if you are sending multiple letters to one facility, you will save on postage costs by bundling your letters together and mailing them in one large envelope, rather than placing an individual postage stamp on each letter. Please write “Letters Against Isolation” across the back flap of the outer envelope and indicate how many letters are enclosed, as this will make things easier for the staff who sort and distribute our mail.
If I’m mailing multiple letters in one large envelope, does each letter need to be in an individual envelope?
There are two schools of thought on this one...on the one hand, it will cost less to mail and be more environmentally-friendly if you do not place each letter in an envelope. On the other hand, placing each letter in an envelope allows you to decorate the envelope and may heighten the anticipation and fun for the seniors. It’s really a matter of personal choice!
If I’m mailing multiple letters together to one location in a large outer envelope, should I seal each of the individual envelopes?
Many volunteers do not seal their individual letters; since we don't know anything about the recipients, sometimes it's good for the staff to take a peek at our notes to better match them with a senior...for example, is the design better suited for a man or a woman...is the handwriting OK if someone has visual problems...would a shorter note be better for someone who might be confused? You may seal each individual envelope with a colorful sticker which is easy to manipulate and the senior will still enjoy “opening” a personal letter.
What if mail is returned to me by the post office?
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org as we have a volunteer who will research the facility in question. We understand that this is quite disappointing and hope that you will be able to “recycle” your correspondence to seniors at a different location.
What are your tips for best mailing practices?
Yes! Please check out this blog post written by a volunteer, Marsha, for tips for best mailing practices.
What is the Anne Granville Stamp Fund?
One of the ways that Letters Against Isolation uses the money that it raises is for the Stamp Fund. The purpose of this initiative is to ensure that all volunteers can write to the seniors we serve, regardless of their ability to purchase stamps! Currently, this program serves students and senior volunteers in the US.
If you are based in the US, please complete this signup form to request stamps. Your first request can be for up to ten stamps, and you may make subsequent requests for larger quantities of stamps based on your previous work. After receiving the stamps, we ask that you verify that you have used the stamps by emailing photos of your addressed and stamped envelopes to Paula at email@example.com. We request that you send us confirmation that your letters have been sent out within a month of your stamps' receipt. If for any reason you are unable to use the stamps that you requested, we ask that you mail them back to Letters Against Isolation so that they can be re-allocated to other volunteers.
Tell me more about the Student Stamp Fund:
Our sign up form has a few questions to verify that the individual requesting stamps is a student. One of these questions requires that the student uploads a current/valid photo of their student ID.
Tell me more about the Senior Stamp Fund:
The Senior Stamp Fund is open to all volunteers aged 65 and over who are based in the US. We ask that volunteers respect the honor system and only request stamps from the Senior Stamp Fund if they are 65 or older.
How do I participate in the Stationery Exchange program?
We are encouraging volunteers who may have extra writing supplies to donate those supplies to volunteers in need. Please contact Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donors will be asked to send their supplies directly to those who have expressed a need.
How do I earn community service hours?
We welcome students who wish to earn community service hours by sending handwritten letters to our seniors. We offer one service hour for every four letters written/sent. Please carefully read these detailed guidelines then complete this short questionnaire. You will be asked to provide a sample of your work and will be assigned a community service liaison who will be your contact person and will verify your efforts. Kindly note that we are all volunteers - LAI has no office or staff. You must allow 2 business days for a response, so plan accordingly!
How do I run a group event with LAI?
Check out the Group Events page on our website here for more detailed instructions.
Can I send gifts to the seniors?
When Shreya and Saffron set up LAI they specified that our mission was to write letters/cards only and asked that we not send gifts. There are a few reasons for this: we don't know if the recipient of our letter will be male or female, what their cognitive level might be and most importantly, we don't want other residents at a facility to feel left out. Some facilities are very large (over 200 residents) so we cannot possibly include a gift for everyone. Some of our volunteers can barely afford postage stamps and we certainly do not want to put more pressure on them with the expectation to include gifts.
That said, your generosity and thoughtfulness are to be admired! Some volunteers include a word search puzzle or adult coloring sheet with their letters. Please consider using the money which you would spend on small gifts to purchase more stamps and write a few extra letters.
I'd like to donate to LAI! How do I do that?
We gratefully accept donations, large or small, from both individuals as well as corporations. Please let us know if your employer offers grants to small non-profits or has a matching gift program for their employees! Here is the link to our donation page.
How can I buy LAI swag?
Don’t wait for the holidays, purchase LAI swag for yourself or others anytime! Here is the link to our merchandise page.