A woman from Racine, Wisconsin, is on a mission to write letters to as many Good Samaritan Society residents she can.
Kirby Feldmann worked for more than 20 years in pharmaceuticals. When she retired recently, she started volunteering and spending time with older adults. From helping Alzheimer’s patients to teaching people how to use iPads, she loved staying active.
When the pandemic hit, Kirby says she had to pivot. That’s when she saw Good Samaritan Society’s Send A Note feature online.
Love letters. No, not romance but rather the love that comes with friendship.
“I really love working with the elderly,” Kirby says.
Kirby has a lot of love to give, and who couldn’t use some right now?
“You can never have too many friends. I can add more anytime,” Kirby says.
So she is. One letter, each weekday, sent to dozens of Good Samaritan Society locations using the Send A Note feature on the Society’s website.
“I can write one letter for the day. Send it out to 80 facilities in maybe a couple of hours," Kirby says. "And it reaches so many people. It’s kind of an exponential effect."
Born during pandemic boredom, the idea got off to a slow start last spring, Kirby says.
“I just sent them to any resident. I often times was contacted back by people that work there going, ‘Do you know anyone that lives here?’ Nope. ‘Do you live in this town or state?’ Nope. ‘Why are you writing?’ I don’t know. It just seems like a fun thing to do. Why not?” Kirby says.
Things started to bloom from there.
Mary Chamberlain, 72, is a resident at Good Samaritan Society - Indianola, Iowa.
“And I was kind of down,” Mary says.
Mary doesn’t have a lot of family checking in on her. Indianola staff knew that and started bringing her Kirby’s dailies.
“She wrote me a letter and she got me up. I was happy then,” Mary says. Letters filled with stories about birds, cooking and her husband John. And they just kept coming. “And I got this book over here, this white one. There is about 100 letters in there and pictures,” Mary says.
Jeannie Stone is an activities aide at a different Good Samaritan Society location in Davenport, Iowa.
“We have a resident here, Elizabeth (Beck), that is from Wisconsin," Jeannie says. "So, I bring Elizabeth those notes and she laughs and enjoys the pictures she also sends with each note."
To Elizabeth, 74, the small gesture makes a big impact.
“Makes me feel good. Like I’m wanted. Not really important, but you know, it’s a feeling of connection,” Elizabeth says.
That's the whole point, Kirby says.
“My whole goal is to deliver a little joy to the residents. Make them laugh a little bit. Talk about myself and the crazy things I do which are kind of boring,” she says.
Crazy, boring but meaningful. And she ends each letter the same way.
“Keep a smile on your face and know you are loved by many,” Kirby says.
It’s a line that seems to be striking a chord during these tough times.
“I’d really like to tell her I love her as a sister and I mean that. Excuse me,” Mary says as she gets emotional.
She wipes away tears while at the same time feeling hope for the future.
“They make me happy, and then I know I’m loved by somebody,” Mary says.
Mary even asked for Kirby's number. The two chat about once a week by phone.
“To know that maybe you made people, someone smile, just once during the day, is a great feeling,” Kirby says.
Mary, and some others, also write Kirby back using snail mail.
“’To John and Kirby, my wonderful, very best friends. 2021,’” Kriby reads. “She colored a picture for us. How can you not like that? Having a new wonderful, best friend.”
It’s safe to say many do like that, even love it.
Reason behind writing
So why does she do it? Kirby, herself, has a mother who is a senior living resident. She wants to reassure her mom and whoever will listen, or read, that they are still important.
“They are loved by many. They’re loved by the staff at the place they live. They’re loved by their loved ones who can’t reach them, who can’t talk to them right now. I think it’s important. That’s a basic thing that you’re loved,” Kirby says.
A basic message spread daily by an extraordinary lady.