MAR LIN — An initiative begun by Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29 to cheer up residents of long-term care centers has spread statewide.

The PA Pen Pal Project was launched at the campus in Mar Lin last month and involves students at intermediate units and school districts statewide writing letters and drawing cards to send to those in the facilities.

The voluntary program is open to students in grades PreK-12 and runs until Christmas Day.

“The purpose is to spread kindness and to provide a connection to residents who have had limited face-to-face contact with loved ones and friends amidst the coronavirus pandemic,” explained IU29 Executive Director Gregory S. Koons.

He said the idea for the program came up during a weekly meeting last month of the county’s Response, Recovery and Renewal Task Force, a group of county commissioners, business, legislative, education and health care leaders who discuss collaborative efforts to benefit county residents. Koons serves on the task force.

The project expanded when Koons brought the program up at a weekly meeting of intermediate unit directors last Wednesday. The Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units, or PAIU, launched the program for school districts and intermediate units across the state last Thursday.

“The students of Schuylkill County will be our future leaders, and we are excited for this initiative to get traction across the commonwealth,” Koons said. “They will be learning valuable leadership skills with citizenship, community service and gratitude that will provide a lifetime of benefit.”

Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29 Early Intervention Program student Alexander Hoffman is assisted in putting his handprint on a banner, which is meant to help cheer up residents of long-term care facilities as part of the PA Pen Pal Project.


He said the project fits in with the PAIU’s theme this year of kindness, which was itself inspired by the work of late “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” host Fred Rogers.

“This is one of those efforts that supports the theme,” Koons said. “The project was launched statewide by the PAIU on Nov. 5 to deliver some kindness just in time for the holiday season.”

At the end of last week, Koons said cards and drawings were distributed to 13 of the 40 residential facilities in the county, where he said they are well-received.

“They appreciate the work,” Koons said of the facility residents.

Information on the project is available online at or

Contact the writer:; 570-628-6028