Once the note made its way online, it was noticed by Frank Somerville, evening news anchor at KTVU in the Oakland/San Francisco area. And he was so moved that he shared the note with his own followers. And that's when people really took notice.
“I wanted to post this as a reminder that there are a lot of lonely people out there,” Frank explained. “Especially elderly people.” He added, “If you know someone like that in your neighborhood maybe consider going over to their home and saying hi. Maybe bring them some cookies too.”
Later on, Marleen sent Frank an update, “She's such a sweet lady! And she was over the moon when we came over.” She added that, “I also made sure that Wanda knew she can call us at anytime and that I'll be back to spend time with her!”
Marleen also revealed some of Wanda's backstory. She said Wanda has ailments including congestive heart failure and osteoporosis, and is presently on oxygen. She also said Wanda had three sons, but one died and the other two live far away.
According to Marleen, Wanda told her, “"I hope you didn't think I was stupid for writing you, but I had to do something. Thank you so much for coming over. I've lived here for 50 years and don't know any of my neighbors.”
Inspired by her meeting with Wanda, Marleen wants to help other elderly people battling loneliness. That's why she started the Facebook group Pen Pals For Seniors. The group already has over 1,000 members.
According to the group's description, “Pen Pals for Seniors is a place where you can become Pen Pals with someone who may need a friend. Message admin and we will give you details on how to get started!”
Marleen also shared a link to another organization helping the elderly, called Friend to Friend America. According to their website, “Friend to Friend America recruits and matches volunteers to visit (one-to-one) with elderly and disabled persons who live in nursing, mind assisted living, retirement, and adult family homes for the purpose of forming friendships.”
After news of Wanda's story got out, other people wanted to reach out to Wanda as well. “I'm working on getting her a PO Box because all I have right now is her physical address," said Marleen. "I'm going over there this evening to meet her and I will keep you updated!”
Frank Somerville is glad Wanda and Marleen's story is reaching so many people. However, he added, “There are so many others out there who are lonely just like Wanda. I would ask that maybe you consider knocking on their door and saying hi. I know it would mean the world to them.”
If you're interested in joining the Pen Pals For Seniors Facebook group, just click here and ask to join. You can also visit the website of Friend to Friend America to learn how to volunteer or donate. Either way, you'll be able to help people reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.