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Shelley lives in a nursing home in Brighton, Massachussetts, and has been feeling isolated ever since the pandemic started. “You miss the closeness with people — whether it’s family or friends; you miss the contact,” she says. Last September, Shelley started receiving letters written by high school students volunteering for the Brookline chapter of Letters for Rose (LFR). “When you’re in a nursing home and you receive letters like that, it lifts your spirits,” Shelley says. Lily Lockwood, the 16-year-old head of LFR’s Brookline chapter, says that leading the letter-writing effort has helped reduce her own feelings of isolation during the pandemic, and has helped her grow. “It’s just fun to be able to lead,” she says. “It’s taught me a lot about communicating with people and making sure that everyone is on the same page.” She also feels a sense of purpose as part of a national organization. “You have this community of over 1,000 people just to talk to and lean on,” she says. “Everyone’s individual effort has become more powerful together.”


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In a small assisted-living facility in Maryland, a bulletin board displays brightly colored cards and letters from teens to residents. One letter describes a teen’s grandparents in the army, and stories learned in history class: It is addressed to a resident who had served. Another letter describes being in the marching band: It is to a resident who used to play the saxophone. Residents “shared their letters with each other,” said Debby Rosenberg, nurse manager of Hummingbird Manor in Aberdeen, Md.“They could not wait to hear what each one said. It was awesome.” The letters have come from teenagers who participate in a nationwide effort, started by two Montclair High School teens, called “Letters for Rose.”


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“It is, perhaps, a lost art form: the handwritten letter. Something so common just a generation ago, replaced by text messages and emojis. A group of students at Chandler High School is joining a nationwide movement to revive the art of letter writing. They are using their words to bring comfort to those most isolated by COVID-19"

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​​MHS juniors Annika Aristimuno and Layla Hurwitz came up with the idea as sophomores at Montclair High School after the pandemic shut down their regular visits as volunteers to Family Of Caring Nursing Home in Montclair. Here, they tell the story of how Letters for Rose came to be:


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Annika Aristimuno and Layla Hurwitz, both juniors at Montclair High School, have found a unique way to occupy their time while in quarantine. They started an organization, Letters for Rose, to help combat loneliness of the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The duo collect letters and artwork and deliver them to local nursing homes. Aristimuno said, "We have over 300 leadership volunteers that started collecting letters in over 25 states. Thus far, they have delivered hundreds of letters/artwork in many states." 

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“I really enjoy reading all of the letters and every time I go through the batch I start smiling about the kind words people have, and how I know that this letter might be going to someone who’s kind of lonely or having a bad day,” Yee said. “And then I also love seeing the pictures that we get from the homes of the seniors who have received our letters smiling. It’s really rewarding to see that.”


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“I realize just how much the little things matter in life. So a simple card, a simple drawing ... that’s been a lot of the way that I’ve been able to communicate with my friends other than just using my cell phone,” said D’Ambro.

The 17-year-old Waterford-Halfmoon High School senior has mixed connective tissue autoimmune disease, meaning she’s had to take isolation during the pandemic seriously.

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“It is, perhaps, a lost art form: the handwritten letter. Something so common just a generation ago, replaced by text messages and emojis. A group of students at Chandler High School is joining a nationwide movement to revive the art of letter writing. They are using their words to bring comfort to those most isolated by COVID-19"

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Interview with our Middletown NJ chapter


Residents/Nursing Homes

“It is unbelievable that the young adults today are thinking of us with their craft. I’m sure bike riding, playing sports and meeting up with peers are fun, but to spend time on a project thinking about ways to cheer and encourage me, the seniors, is just unheard of nowadays. I am so happy that these children/teenagers are making the world a better place with this project. You can’t help it but smile the second you glance at their art. I see pure innocence and I feel a rush of joy. Keep up the great work.”

-Barbara S. from Family of Caring in Montclair, NJ

I would like to thank you for the beautiful artwork you sent to Beechwood Post Acute & Transitional Care facility. Our residents enjoyed looking and choosing the one that touched them. We discussed the care and planning that went into these gifts. We had smiles, laughing and very grateful residents. They loved the wonderful addition to the residents bulletin boards. Thank you again.

-Beechwood Post Acute & Transitional Care facility in Santa Monica, CA

Thank you to you and all the amazing volunteers who took the time and effort to create the beautiful art work and who wrote the detailed letters for Woodhaven residents. Everything that was sent was very well received by the residents. I had some of them select the artwork for themselves. It was a difficult decision for them, as they saw each painting as more beautiful than the last. The artwork is now proudly displayed in their rooms, and many of them enjoy showing to staff and friends. We read some of the letters out loud to a group after they were passed out. Everyone enjoyed hearing about the students who wrote the letters and seeing the pictures that many of them shared. The time and effort the volunteers took to write such detailed lovely letters was very much appreicated by all. Your mission of bringing smiles to our residents was a big success! Thank you for bringing joy to our residents! 

-Woodhaven Retirement Home in Livonia, MI

"These letters and cards encourage me and remind me that we will get through these difficult times." Resident 1 at Arbor Terrace Roseland in Roseland, NJ

"These letters and artwork touched my heart so deeply - to think that people who do not know me took the time to write to me makes me feel so special" - Resident 2 at Arbor Terrace Roseland in Roseland, NJ

"What a wonderful surprise! This made my week. Sometimes I get lonely and this made me so happy." Resident 3 at Arbor Terrace Roseland in Roseland, NJ

"What colorful artwork! I appreciate that strangers took time to write kind things to me and make things for us." -Resident 4 at Arbor Terrace Roseland in Roseland, NJ

We appreciate the gesture so much and the smiles that your donations bring to our residents' faces. You all are an absolute gift! -Woodland Terrace Nursing Home in North Carolina

"To our friends at Letters for Rose, Thank you so much for the lovely letters and cards that you have sent to our residents.  Unfortunately, I cannot share photos but your efforts have not gone unappreciated.It’s so wonderful to be able to hand out a letter to EVERY resident.  We have a couple of families that send things to their loved ones regularly, but there are many that feel left out. The “aura” of the room dramatically changes when it is possible to give a piece of mail to every resident. Not only do they read their own letters, but it’s not uncommon to see them sitting at the lunch table sharing with the other residents. Thank you for this gift, it really does make a difference to our family of residents when they know someone still cares enough to drop a note."

-Aegis Living Kent in Kent WA

"Receiving mail from Letters for Rose is a wonderful addition to our resident’s routine. Every time I tell the residents that they have mail from the students and volunteers of Letters for Rose, I see how excited they become. Every time they read their letters and look at the artwork, I see how happy and grateful they are. As a sign of appreciation, I see a lot of our residents proudly display the mail that they receive and are usually engaging staff and other residents in conversations about their letters/artwork. We are truly grateful for the heartfelt letters and amazing artwork that our residents receive. A simple yet sincere act of kindness truly goes a long way!"

-Brinton Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation in Glen Mills PA

"Letters for Rose! Hey! My name is Brenda Walter. I am so happy that one of the kids in your classroom drew me a picture for Halloween. Please tell him or her that I said thank you. I would like to hear from your class again. I hope that I will hear from your class again. This way, I will write back. I hope your class had a Halloween party. I like to write letters to kids every chance I get. I cannot wait to hear from the kids again. This has made me so happy. I wish I could have more to say right now. I am so happy that I can write to your class. Well, I have to go for now. Thanks to you and your class. Your friend, Brenda Walter."

- Resident from Brinton Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation in Glen Mills PA

Team Members

"I joined Letters for Rose solely for key club hours, however, after I became the social media director of my chapter, a lot of things changed. I have fun with it and I don’t really do this for hours anymore, I do it more for my own enjoyment and the seniors in the nursing homes. Working for this organization is really nothing I expected. I mostly expected this to be just work and no play. But the founders, Annika and Layla always make sure to check up on the chapters and make sure that we all interact with each other in some way. I’ve definitely learned a lot about graphic design and how important it is to create a theme that works and can be consistent, yet creative. Not only have I learned design, but also communication. At Letters for Rose, we talk to people in different chapters, and learning how to talk to different people in so many different ways has become extremely handy. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the mission for Letters for Rose is to help make seniors in nursing homes and assisted living feel less lonely, but in return, it has also made me feel less lonely and better about how I am contributing to my community."

-Sarah Manasier, Holly Springs North Carolina Social Media Director

"I love that Letters for Rose gives younger people a chance to really impact the world around them. It’s really helped me to see that there is so much more that I can do for those around me, regardless of my age or what others may think. I really wanted to help my community in some way and Letters for Rose really gave me that opportunity! It’s amazing to see so many young people come together to support the older generation! It’s also really helped me during the pandemic since I have not been able to see a lot of my loved ones as well, so being able to connect with others in a similar situation has been really nice! Also, the feeling of knowing you are bringing a smile to someone’s face through making a card or writing a letter is amazing!"

-Emily Taylor, Liberty Township Ohio Chapter Head

"Letters for Rose has given me an opportunity to help my community through the elderly, which has inspired me to show acts of kindness through other methods as well. The day we did our first batch, the volunteer director called me saying that the elderly were the happiest they have been in a long time."

-Leann Wagner, Graham Washington Chapter Head

"I wanted to join Letters for Rose as soon as I saw their initiative was to help seniors! Combined with my love for her, meeting new people, as well as previous experience volunteering at senior facilities, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to be a part of something greater than myself."

-Fiza Mahmud, Tempe Arizona Outreach Coordinator

"My favorite part about Letters for Rose is that we are bringing some joy to people who would otherwise feel isolation and/or loneliness. It means the world to me to be able to make people happy. The entire LFR community is so welcoming, and thanks to my team’s hard work and their support I have been able to build my chapter up while providing letters to elders in Northern Virginia!"

-Daliya Rizvi, Mclean Virginia Chapter Head

"I love how Letters for Rose gives me and many other students an outlet to make other people smile. Making other people happy surely makes me happy and LFR gives me an opportunity to do so as well as benefit my community."

-Sophia Karl, Huntington New York Chapter Head

"My favorite part of Letters for Rose is being able to truly connect with individuals that I have never been able to reach out to before! I love knowing that my words and art can bring a smile to strangers’ faces!"

-Keya Umesh, Mclean Virginia Outreach Coordinator

"I’ve gained so much from Letters for Rose. Not only have I made friends, who are just as passionate about giving back to the community, but I also feel like I’m part of something. Helping the senior citizens of our community by giving them hope and happiness fills me with so much joy! I hope that I can continue this legacy of giving back even after I leave high school."

-Julisa Muñoz, Liberty Township Ohio Ambassador

Over the summer, I wanted to do something to occupy my time that actually helped someone.  I has signed up for different projects but I didn’t really feel very passionate about any of them so when Annika reached out to me it seemed like fate! I met with Layla and Annika later that same day via Zoom (of course!) and I instantly felt so comfortable with them and I feel so lucky that I got to be the first new member added to the Letters for Rose family! I have loved seeing Layla and Annika’s project take off from just an idea to such a widespread organization.  It’s been amazing seeing the project grow and meeting so many new people who all genuinely want to help others.  

Right off the bat I was able to be creative and think of new ideas for the Brookline chapter.  I had expected to just carry out day to day operations while Layla and Anni managed everything, but they gave me so much freedom to run the chapter which was amazing! I love being able to manage a team! I have learned so much from the experience both about myself and how to lead in general.  One of the biggest things I have learned (and am still learning) is how to communicate effectively with so many people. It has definitely been a challenge to make sure that all 14 people on our team have all the information they need to do what they need to do, but it has taught me so much about communicating with a group of people at once as well as what an individual might need as well!

In Brookline, we have delivered 9 rounds of letters, cards, and artwork from our volunteers.  Seeing pictures of seniors with the pieces they received and hearing the praise from the nursing home staff about the difference we have made is amazing! The whole reason we all work so hard is to make the seniors happy so when we hear that they are, it is so exciting and everyone’s favorite part for sure!!  Knowing that we have made a change, even if its a small one (just a smile from a senior) make us feel amazing! Especially during the pandemic, knowing we are shining some light on an otherwise sad and shadowy time is amazing!

Obviously, the pandemic has been so hard on so many people and Letters for Rose has helped me cope with all the challenges I have been presented with.  I am so thankful to have found the project and been able to devote so much time to it!  

If it wasn’t already clear, I love Letters for Rose for so many reasons! I love that I get to help, be creative, make a difference, learn new things, and work with great people.  One of my other favorite parts is being able to work with my amazing team! Some of us have know each other for years and some of us for about 6 months!  Everyone on the Brookline chapter team is so dedicated, kind, flexible, and we couldn’t have made a difference without each other!!

Thank you to everyone who works so hard on making Letters for Rose even better because it just spreads the positivity and kindness that we all need more of!!

-Lily Lockwood, Brookline MA Chapter Head


"I join Letters for Rose because of a friendship I found with the senior through a virtual companionship program and because of my persisting love of creating art for others. During the summer, the connection I made with the senior through a program fully him home for me and showed the loneliness that so many are facing right now – particularly seniors. If I can do something I love and helped ease that burden, I will happily jump in, and Letters for Rose has been a wonderful program to help Forge and spread our human connections across generations."

-Lilia Buronpatel from Brookline MA

"I’ve joined Letters for Rose through school, and I’m so glad I did; everyone has been at least somewhat impacted by Covid, but I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult these times have been for seniors living in nursing homes. I love making art and cards, so having the opportunity to give this art back to the community and possibly make someone’s day is the greatest reward."

-Katya Ivanova from Brookline MA

"I absolutely love writing letters. I think it is the perfect way to communicate with people, because every letter is so thoughtful and contains such meticulous effort. I love calligraphy and doodling and I tried to make each letter unique and full of love. I started volunteering with Letters for Rose specifically because I knew that a lot of seniors are missing this kind of thoughtful communication, and I just want to help people feel loved, especially during this time of isolation. If I can brighten someone’s day or make someone smile, then the care I put into my letters will be worth it."

-Charlotte Strokes from Brookline MA

"I joined the Letters for rose community after hearing about it through my schools community service canvas page. Though I begin volunteering in part to fill my community service hours, I also joined because I genuinely enjoy making things for others. It makes me happy to know that my heart can make someone smile."

-Andrea Motekaitis from Brookline MA

"As Ambassador for the Chicago Chapter, I’ve communicated with a lot of different volunteers. I find it so amazing that people are so enthusiastic about giving comfort during these times. So many people put extra care into their letters and artwork. Seeing their work gives me motivation, and it’s my favorite part of LFR.

-Adhira Darapaneni, Chicago Illinois Chapter Head


"This Thanksgiving season we were honored to participate in the Letters for Rose project which is about bringing joy and connection to the elderly during the pandemic. Our 3rd and 4th grade students wrote letters and created art which will then be believed to nursing homes. We are pleased to be a part of this and our students loved it. What a wonderful project." 

-International Academy of NY

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