Tuscarora Graduate’s Letter Sparks Intergenerational Friendship


A random act of kindness by a 2021 Tuscarora High School graduate turned into a life-changing experience.

Kelsar Just first began writing letters to nursing home residents in April 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. “I did not want to sit idle during this time. It was important to me that I continue to volunteer while trying to make a difference in people’s lives during an uncertain time. I volunteered through an organization called Allforgood.org where I was able to send letters across the country. I sent out over 150 letters using traditional ‘snail mail.’ I feel the art of letter writing has been lost considering my generation is centered around technology and texting.”

Just, who is now a freshman at William and Mary, received only one letter in reply, from Jean Peck in Henrietta, New York. "I was not discouraged at all by the lack of responses as I was not expecting anything in return. It was an outreach effort to reassure the elderly in nursing homes that they are not alone. Sending positive messages and hopefully putting a smile on one’s face was important to me. I was beyond excited when I received Jean’s letter. It meant a lot that she took the initiative to get my address and write a thoughtful letter back. Although I did not have any expectations, it was really nice that Jean responded. 

“Before I made contact with Jean, I did not know anything about her or Henrietta, New York.  Although there was a big generation gap, Jean and I found many commonalities. We discussed athletics, our friends and hobbies. Jean was always interested in hearing about my daily happenings. Despite a significant generation gap, you can still find commonalities.”  

The two exchanged 80 letters. In February, Just learned that Peck was in Hospice care and arranged a trip to New York to see her.  “It was a pleasure to meet Jean in person after writing for two years. Given COVID, and me heading off to college, there was no real appropriate time to meet in person.  I was so pleased I was able to meet Jean, hold her hand and tell her how much our pen pal relationship had meant to me. “

Just has some advice for anyone who would replicate her efforts: “It’s important to not have any expectations, rather just the goal of bringing a smile to someone’s face via a positive and uplifting message.”

Published May 16, 2022