LAKE COUNTY — People of all ages enjoy writing to pen pals and connecting with someone new. Whether a person handwrites a letter or trades email one can reap a wealth of benefits that enhance physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

For this reason, Lake County 4-H and Grand Oaks Nursing Center in Baldwin are teaming up to begin their own pen pal exchange between 4-H members and residents.

Interest in the 4-H pen pal program, which is to begin the first week of November, has attracted young people from all over Lake County. Home schooled students as well as students from Baldwin Community Schools and Big Jackson Public School are participating in the new program.

To find the best pen pal match, Christine Engels, Activity Director for Grand Oaks Nursing Center, along with Laurie Platte Breza, 4-H Coordinator, will review the letters and pair up the 4-H youth with residents of Grand Oaks Nursing Center based on shared hobbies and interest.

For some residents of Grand Oaks, having a pen pal can help reduce feelings of loneliness and seclusion brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. For others, looking forward to a letter or reread past letters are just some of the many benefits of writing letter.

For the youth, perhaps most obviously, writing and receiving handwritten pen pal letters practices both reading and writing skills. It also promotes many key skills, including reciprocation, empathy, and mutual concern. Most importantly, it fosters the ability to search for and find common bonds, a key element of friendship.

For more information about the 4-H Pen Pal Club or membership in the Lake County 4-H program, contact Laurie Platte Breza, 4-H Coordinator, at platteb1@msu.edu.