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Community Service Guidelines

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Thank you for your interest in earning community service hours with Letters Against Isolation (“LAI”). Our volunteers strive to connect with isolated seniors and make them feel special and appreciated when they read our cheerful, thoughtful handwritten letters. 


Please review our program guidelines before you write with us. 

 

Registration Process


To earn community service hours verified by LAI, students and professionals must complete our community service registration form, which requires information about you and your organization as well as your commitment to follow our guidelines. You’ll need to submit one sample letter for feedback and approval before you spend significant time creating multiple letters. 


If you are in need of court-ordered community service hours, please reach out directly to Ellen at lai.volunteer.rep@gmail.com, as she is the only member of our team authorized to sign legal documents.

 

Communication from LAI


Within 24 hours after registering, new volunteers will receive a Welcome Email from lettersagainstisolation@gmail.com with a link to our user portal and important information about our program. Please add this address to your “safe” contacts and check your spam folder for our emails. 


Within 2 business days after registering, volunteers will receive an email from a Community Service Liaison who will become their assigned LAI contact. The liaison reviews volunteers’ letters, provides feedback, shares additional resources, answers questions, tracks service hours and submits verification of hours upon completion of service. You should send all messages, photos and forms directly to your assigned liaison. 


Every Sunday you will receive our Weekly Newsletter from lettersagainstisolation@gmail.com with a link to our user portal and important updates about our program. Again, please add this address to your “safe” contacts and check your spam folder for our emails. 

 

Letter Requirements

For LAI to verify your time spent for community service credit, your letters must meet certain standards:

  • Letters must be handwritten and at least five (5) sentences in length. 

  • Sign your first name or a nickname at the end of each letter.

  • Each letter should be unique and special. One way to vary your correspondence is to include silly jokes or a favorite quote. Add some colorful doodles or stickers for extra eye appeal. LAI strives for quality over quantity!

  • Avoid mentioning health, politics or religion. This includes, but is not limited to, Bible quotes, scripture, prayers or mention of God. We are an all inclusive organization, and it is critical that we do not make our readers feel uncomfortable. 

  • While it’s permissible to use an internet search to seek general ideas, your words must be your own and feel personal to our seniors. 

  • AI programs such as ChatGPT must not be used, and LAI will not be able to verify work which appears insincere or mechanical. Sending this type of correspondence does not align with LAI’s mission and is likely not what your school or organization intends when community service hours are assigned.

 

Stationery


Write your letters on plain paper, construction paper, cardstock, printed stationery or blank notecards. 

  • Please do not cut or tear thin paper into small pieces, as it may be difficult for seniors to hold these small letters. 

  • Cardstock folded into halves makes quick, easy, sturdy inexpensive notecards.

  • If you use plain paper, make sure to decorate your letters so they are cheery and bright.

  • You can use stickers, draw pictures or cut out pictures and glue them to your letters.

  • No glitter, please. 

  • Our volunteers often find inexpensive stationery, stickers and envelopes at dollar stores and thrift stores. 

  • When sending more than one letter to a facility, you do not need to put each letter into a separate envelope. 

  • If you send multiple envelopes within one outer envelope, please leave the inner envelopes unsealed. 

  • If you find yourself in need of writing supplies, please get in touch with our Stationery Exchange by emailing lai.stationery.exchange@gmail.com. 

 

Letter-Writing Ideas


Ultimately, it’s more important to be authentic than to sound polished. It’s okay if your own words aren’t poetic - because they are YOUR words from your heart! That’s going to shine through in your letters and achieve that connection that we strive for. Your reader will feel touched by your effort to take time from your day to reach out to them.

  • Begin your letter with a greeting such as Dear/Hello/Greetings, Friend! … or … Sending Smiles or Wishing you a happy day from [your location]!

  • You may write about anything positive and upbeat: where you live, your pets, your favorite season/color/food/hobbies/places, what you see outside your window, something silly that happened. 

  • You can ask the seniors simple questions to spark memories or to see if you might have something in common.

  • Consider including a reminder that they are special, unique, loved, valued. Express your wishes for peace, comfort, joy, sunshine, smiles. 

  • Mention the senior’s hometown, region or state/province, keeping in mind that meals on wheels & senior center readers may live in a different city. Research facts about the place or share a personal experience if you’ve been there. 

  • Jokes, quotes, tongue twisters, doodles, stickers or colored pens can enhance your letters. 

  • We don’t know what our readers celebrate or whether a particular holiday is difficult for them. Rather than mentioning a holiday, you could focus on a seasonal theme

  • Our Dates of Distinction blog posts on our website suggest different ideas for each month.

  • Facilities and programs are assigned a category to help you understand what kinds of cards and letters are most appropriate for them. Send longer letters to Meals on Wheels programs, Senior Centers, Independent Living and Assisted Living facilities. Shorter, simpler letters with larger print should be mailed to Nursing Homes and Memory Care facilities. 

 

Foreign Language Requests


Some of our seniors speak a language other than English. Please advise your community service liaison if you are able and willing to write in a different language to earn community service hours. 

 

Earning Credit Hours


  • We expect and trust that you will spend about 15 minutes writing each letter. 

  • LAI awards one (1) service hour for every four (4) handwritten letters that you write and mail. 

  • Please communicate directly with your assigned community service liaison; we each have our own email address. 

  • You are required to send us photos of your actual handwritten messages. 

  • You may send a photo which includes multiple letters, as long as they are legible/readable. The letters must be arranged so that we can count them. 

  • Photos of envelopes or stacks of letters will not be accepted for community service credit. 

  • Once your work is approved and you mail your letters, please return to the portal and mark your pledges as SENT.

  • You must mail your letters promptly by the deadline shown in our user portal. Do not hold onto your letters for an extended period of time. 

  • You may send your photos as you complete your letters. LAI will respond with a running total of your letters and hours. 

  • We will provide ONE verification letter (or complete ONE school form) at the conclusion of each semester/term/service period. If your school uses an online verification platform, please have that service contact your assigned LAI representative directly.

 

Fulfilling Letter Requests


LAI volunteers send letters to facilities and senior programs, where they are distributed by staff. Volunteers log into our user portal to sign up to fulfill our partners’ letter requests. You’ll find a link to our user portal in your Welcome Email and your Weekly Newsletter. The portal displays all our letter requests for the current two-week cycle.

  • Familiarize yourself with basic instructions for utilizing our user portal on desktop computers and mobile devices before logging in. Our comprehensive tutorial goes into more detail. 

  • Look for the help button on each page of the user portal for pop-up instructions. 

  • You may filter the letter requests by country, state or province, language and facility type. 

  • You can search for new facilities and high priority facilities whose letter requests were not fulfilled in the prior cycle. 

  • You’ll see a deadline for mailing letters pledged in the current cycle. 

  • Ensure you have the time, supplies, and postage to send your letters by the cycle deadline listed in the portal.

  • We recommend that you write your letters first and then sign up for the actual amount of letters that have been completed and are ready to mail.

  • Our portal is updated every two weeks; if there are limited opportunities available please hold your letters for the next cycle.

  • Each volunteer may sign up for a MAXIMUM of 200 letters per two-week cycle.  Any pledges exceeding this amount will be deleted by our portal administrator. 

  • For community service credit, share photos of all your letters with your assigned LAI community service liaison. 

  • Mail your letters and mark them as SENT in the user portal. 

 

Mailing and Postage


To ensure that your letters arrive promptly, double check that you’ve addressed the letter correctly and affixed proper postage. 

  • Review our Best Practices for Mailing Letters. 

  • Write “Letters Against Isolation” and any notes such as foreign language or number of letters enclosed. 

  • We recommend that you write your return address on the envelope, but this is not mandatory. 

  • In the US, one stamp covers one ounce of mail (2 cards or letters in a single envelope.)  You are welcome to mail multiple letters in a large outer envelope, but you’ll need to visit the post office to have your package weighed to ensure correct postage is affixed.

  • Sending mail to other countries costs more, and postage rates increase twice a year. Please check with your local post office to make sure you are using the proper postage.

  • You can often save on postage by mailing letters in bulk and without individual envelopes, but please verify with the post office to make sure you’re using the proper amount of postage.

  • Large, thick, rigid or lumpy envelopes might require additional postage. 

  • To ensure that more volunteers can write to the seniors we serve, regardless of their ability to purchase stamps, LAI uses grant money and donations to offer a Stamp Fund. Currently, this program is available to students and senior volunteers in the United States. Email lai.stamp.fund@gmail.com with any questions. 

  • In the rare event that your letter is returned to you as undeliverable, contact paula.brmn.lai@gmail.com to research the issue.  You may resend the letter to a different facility.

 

Partnering With a New Organization


  • If LAI needs to register with your organization so that you may volunteer with us, please advise your community service liaison or email lai.volunteer.rep@gmail.com

  • At this time, we are not a registered charity for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. LAI is a small non-profit organization, and our budget does not allow us to purchase the necessary award items such as pins, coins and embossed certificates.


 

Additional Information 


Don’t forget to check out our detailed FAQ page.


Kindly remember that LAI is 100% volunteer-run: we have neither office nor staff and therefore no phone number. Our goal is to respond to all emails within two (2) business days, Monday through Friday. Please plan accordingly.


We look forward to working with you!


Revised August 15, 2023.


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