Lockdown Letters was one of the service-oriented organizations featured during the #IPSAG Virtual Lunch-Time Conversation with Alpha Iota Gamma and Synapse last September. Last week, I met with Preethi Kumaran and Joey Lohmann, two out of seven founders of the Lockdown Letters, to learn more about the initiative that contributes to the morale of essential workers across the country.
Lockdown Letters was born back in March, when campus suddenly shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the seven service-oriented friends were not physically together on campus anymore, the spirit of Penn that traveled back home with them. As future healthcare workers and engineers scattered across time zones, they brainstormed a way to utilize and combine their existing skill sets in social media, computer programming, and team management to share their appreciation to front-line workers working in hospitals near their homes.
The group decided to focus on letter-writing, a low-cost virtual volunteer opportunity that spans age groups and that can be an activity done by individuals and families. Here are a couple of examples of submissions.
In addition, Lockdown Letters is actively partnering with fellow student organizations to host virtual letter-writing workshops, which seems like a perfect service-learning activity during Penn’s Year of Civic Engagement.
This all-student-led initiative has since sent 8,092 letters to essential workers in hospitals, other medical institutions, and grocery stores in 39 states. Hospitals have even reached out to Lockdown Letters to receive the letters for their employees. Like many of us, the founders are not sure when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over. They plan to continue leading Lockdown Letters, even after most of them will graduate at the end of next semester.
While the initiative has grown quickly, so have the student leaders, who picked up new skills in virtual collaboration, organizational dynamics, and marketing and are starting to explore the potential application of Lockdown Letters outside of the pandemic starting with sending letters of appreciations to firefighters battling the wildfires on the West Coast. Beyond the immediate crises, Preethi and Joey mentioned another application to utilize letter-writing to support the social wellness with folks experiencing other types of isolation such as children in foster care and people in incarceration.
Preethi and Joey are thankful for the news articles about Lockdown Letters, which has helped raise awareness of the organization’s work at Penn and beyond. They are also inspired to see friends who have started other service-oriented initiatives during the pandemic. In the spirit of the holiday season, learn more about Lockdown Letters and write a letter wishing healthcare workers “Happy Holidays!”