Bearden students continue nursing home outreach during Covid-19 through ‘Letters for Rose’


Lily Benevicz

A resident who lives in a nursing home reads one of the letters she has received through the “Letters for Rose” organization.

Nursing homes are a hub for high school students across the country, looking to participate in meaningful community outreach. Teenagers often dedicate their afternoons to talk, play games, and build connections with nursing home residents. 

When the infamous pandemic struck the world, this was no longer an option.

During the heat of the pandemic, nursing homes shut down all over the country. Outside visitors were not allowed to volunteer and spend time with residents for an indefinite amount of time.

Seeing a void in personal connections, “Letters for Rose” was born. 

Two teenagers Annika Aristumo and Layla Hurwitz from Montclair High School in New Jersey came up with this idea when their weekly visits to the nursing home came to a halt amid the pandemic. Knowing that they wanted to keep in touch with the residents as it made a positive impact in the elders’ lives, they created “Letters for Rose”.

They sent letters and artwork to nursing homes in their community. After seeing the positive response from their peers, their idea grew into an organization that other high school students could get involved in to bring joy to those in nursing homes in over 20 states.

In under a year, “Letters for Rose” formed a Tennessee chapter that Bearden students chomped at the bit to get involved in. 

“‘Letters for Rose’ is a volunteer organization that’s goal is to reduce loneliness among elders, originally during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said senior Lily Benevicz, who is serving as Knoxville ambassador and social media coordinator. “Our goal is to create and distribute personalized letters, art, and donations for local nursing homes.

“It has created a great impact on elders in nursing homes by bringing them a connection to those outside when they were not able to see anyone during the pandemic. It allows them to form a connection and experience joy in a time of hardship.”

The teenagers involved in this organization have taken on important roles and have been entrusted with a great deal of responsibility.

“I reach out to nursing homes to get names of their residents and then pick up letters to deliver them,” said senior Ellie Foster, who is an outreach coordinator.

The Knoxville chapter is always looking for Bearden students to get involved. It is an easy way to gain volunteer hours and put a smile on a nursing home resident’s face.

“We are always looking for letters,” Benevicz said. “If you are artistic or not, a letter can take a few minutes, and it can make someone’s whole week.

“Many of these elders are still not allowed visitors, so we would love it if people would take time to write letters and get involved. We also give volunteer hours.”

Foster reflects on the joy that this organization has brought to the elderly.

“These letters are just a small thing that creates a big impact in others lives,” Foster said. “It is just a small way to give back to others who really need it.”

To get involved with “Letters for Rose,” follow their instagram or visit their website and press “get involved.”