When the world shut down in the height of COVID-19, student Sydney Clements turned to what she knew best: community service. Clements is a 17-year-old junior at Franklin Community High School in Franklin, IN. As her classes turned online, she turned to pen and paper and reached out to Morning Pointe of Franklin (IN) about being a pen pal. Immediately, a letter writing campaign began. “Eleven names were given and she has been faithful about drawing them a picture and handwriting them a letter once a week,” explains Mary Beth Piland, life enrichment director at Morning Pointe of Franklin. “The residents in turn have written her as well.”
Clements shared with the residents all about herself and her family, her love for painting and her desire to be a pediatric cardiologist in memory of her youngest brother who passed as an infant with a heart-related condition. She even got her other younger brother involved in the service project. “One of the wonderful things that she did was have her little brother make each of the residents a paper crane,” explains Piland. “The crane symbolizes hope and good fortune in Japanese culture.”
Already residents are making connections and looking forward to new letters. Barbara Herndon hung her special artwork from Sydney on her apartment door and Roseann Hobert is busy making artwork to send back to Sydney. The excitement gave Mary Beth an idea to take the newfound friendships a step further. “I asked Sydney if she would like to put a face with a name and same for the residents. They were all overjoyed to be able to see each other face-to-face,” smiles Piland. “Sydney made a trip around the building and talked to her pen pal residents through their windows. A few tears were shed.”
No surprises that the residents fell in love with Sydney. She has a long history of community service and leadership. The junior is a member of the National Honor Society and the president of the Interact Club, a service club. She is also an officer for the Riley Dance Marathon. This event raises money for Riley Hospital where her little brother was once a patient. She still finds time for the Franklin Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council where she has been a member for nine years and has completed 44 service projects. Now she has taken on Morning Pointe of Franklin Assisted Living and Alzheimer’s Memory Care.
In one of her letters, resident Mary Miller wrote about her love for painting too and is looking forward to showing Sydney some of her work. “Sydney in response took time to paint Mary a small canvas,” says Piland. “Mary plans to hang it in her room and wants Sydney to see it when she comes for her next window visit.”
Now with weeks of letter writing, shared art and window visits enjoyed, no one can wait to have Sydney in the building as their special guest and number one Morning Pointe of Franklin volunteer. All it took was a little time, a big heart and a pen and paper.
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