Through Pen Friend program, St. Ann bridges generational gap between local seniors, students

Charlotte Geha and Boo McCray met face-to-face for the first time on Tuesday after having written each other through the St. Ann Pen Friend program for more than a year.

Decades may separate Charlotte Geha and Boo McCray, but as the two sat across from each other in metal folding chairs at St. Ann Catholic Church on Tuesday, it was clear they were hitting it off.

They talked about sports. They talked about trips they’d taken. They talked about their shared love of dogs — how McCray and her family train and play with their two English Cream Golden Retrievers, Tuck and Joey. How Geha dotes on her Schnauzer Molly (“I love her to death. She wears me out, but I love her to death.”)

The Pen Friend program at St. Ann has paired 275 students with senior parishioners.

Geha and McCray had never met in person before, but they had gotten to know each other through a program launched at St. Ann last year with the goal of fostering inter-generational friendships, and giving students the chance to practice a waning art: writing letters.

Parishioner Anne Edmonds spearheaded the launch of the Pen Friend program, which has paired 275 St. Ann Catholic School students with senior members of the parish. Last year, the students and seniors began exchanging written letters.

“We just wanted to create a bridge and a bond between our younger parishioners and our older parishioners,” Edmonds said. “I knew that our elders would love getting mail. But when we deliver these letters to the classrooms, the kids get so excited.”

Most of the pairs have exchanged a handful of letters to date, and some of them had met at mass or other church events. But for the majority of the pairs, a Pen Friend party in the church’s dining hall Tuesday presented the first chance to meet in person.

That was a welcome opportunity for Geha and McCray.

“She’s very easy to talk to,” Geha said of McCray. “This is a great idea for schools. We never had this as we were growing up….I think it’s great for children. They need to connect, not just with their family.”

McCray said she was excited to get to meet Geha in person because it gave them the chance to share thoughts that would be difficult to convey in a letter.

“When you’re writing, you try to put as much detail into it as you can, but when you get to meet in person, you can tell more stories and more details,” she said.