GTPulse: Make a New Friend in Quarantine with The Letter League Pen-Pal Program

What would we do without social media right now? I ask myself this throughout any given week lately, usually when I realize that I’ve been zombie scrolling through social media for an amount of time too embarrassing to admit. Although every other aspect of life has slowed down, social media, Zoom meetings and online shopping have picked up. Connecting virtually is important and offers a way other than a telephone call to keep in touch with loved ones and keep loneliness at bay. The gratifying ‘confirm purchase’ button to order the shoes you’ve been eyeing for the past few weeks gives a sense of excitement and maybe even control (‘these shoes, this lipstick, that book are going to make me happier’) that most people are searching for right now. The internet is definitely aiding us in times of restlessness and confusion, but what’s missing with communicating and shopping online is the anticipation. Everything is so instantaneous now I wonder if we’ve lost our will to wait. In a world of constant notification pings and two-day shipping, when do we let anything steep in the passing of time?

Heather Spooner is a Traverse City resident and owner of Ampersand Lettering Lab. Heather makes words beautiful with her hand-lettered signage, globes, stickers and other items. She also often runs workshops teaching others the art of hand lettering.

Heather, like the rest of us, hasn’t been able to connect in person with anyone since the Stay Home Stay Safe order began. 

“Connecting people is at the very core of my being. It’s woven into the fabric that makes me human. I want every person in my life connected to someone else in my life who can enhance their human experience or relate to them on a deeper level. It’s not uncommon for me to see a friend out and about and mention to them someone they should know based on similar interests that they bring up in conversation. I’m forever passing friends around and helping connect people in my circle. And in a time when we aren’t as easily able to do that, I wanted to still be able to find a way for people to connect.”

Her spouse Christy Lundgren’s birthday fell just as the quarantine orders were starting, a time when physical human connection wasn’t going to be possible. She wanted to make Christy’s birthday special so she reached out to friends and family to see if they would send cards for her birthday. Any kind would do, she didn’t want people leaving their homes just to grab a birthday card. Handmade paper creations, repurposed Thank You cards and dozens of others filed in.

The colorful envelopes that greeted Heather every day were a source of joy. Not only were they arriving in celebration of Christy, but they were also something to look forward to. 

“I had a thought that other people probably feel that same joy when they get real mail in their mailbox and I started thinking about how I could integrate the mail system into what I would offer during this time for my business. So I started thinking about the pen pals we had as kids and reworked it to be something that would be appealing to adults. I wanted to give adults something fun to do for themselves for ten or fifteen minutes and then allow them that same feeling of joy that I felt when they got a letter returned to them.”

Do you remember the last time you had a pen pal? I do. I wrote to a girl in Montreal when I was taking French classes in school. Our teacher had assigned us to our pen pals and I kept my correspondence with her up for almost three years. I used to ask her about poutine and French curse words, and we’d plot what our adventures together would look like if we ever met.  It’s much the same in The Letter League, Heather’s new pen-pal program through Ampersand Lettering Lab. Heather pairs each person up with a pen pal based on a questionnaire that everyone must take when they purchase the stationery and stamps used for The Letter League. She considers each pen pal pairing carefully and bases her decision off of common interests and sometimes even location if they request to be in closer proximity to their pen pal. The current Letter Leaguers are spread over 15 states.

“I have created an in-depth survey of interests and disinterests that each participant fills out to help me get to know them on a deeper level. There is also a space where people can tell me specific things that they think it’s important that I know, and if I’m being honest, that’s where the magic happens. Letting people talk positively about their interests and preferences is such a joy for me to read. I also like to remind everyone that the more they share with me the easier it is for me to connect them with their best pal.”

The first two rounds of The Letter League unsurprisingly sold out, but Heather has just opened the third round today. Joining in is easy. The pen pal kit consists of 10 envelopes, stationery, stamps, and seals for lick-free letter closing. She also is offering a discount on an online lettering course to pen pal participants, because if you’re taking the time to send a letter, why not make it as beautiful as can be?

Receiving a personal letter is still just as wonderful of a feeling as its ever been. Never has there been a time in my life where I wasn’t happy to get mail that was from a friend or family member. Not only is it lovely to be on the receiving end of getting a letter, but it’s also an intentional, somewhat meditative process to write a letter to someone, and who knows, maybe your new pal is one you’ll know for years to come. 

“I would love for The Letter League participants to grow these friendships and create connections that last far longer than the first 10 letters. My long term goal would be to host a Letter League luncheon where everyone could meet and make even more connections!”

Making new friends in quarantine didn’t seem possible, but Heather’s endless creativity has changed that. When was the last time you wrote a letter?

Interested? sign up here, and use PENPAL10 to get 10% off of the lettering course when you buy both!

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Categories: GTPulse