Rhode Islanders putting pen to paper to thank local health care heroes

Street Stories

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A group of Rhode Islanders are going out of their way to show their appreciation for the local health care workers who have put their lives on the line during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dear Rhode Island” is a community-led project that aims to build connections across the Ocean State using the power of letters, according to Jessica David, a member of the What Cheer Writers Club who helped kickstart the project.

David said there’s more to it than being a pen pal.

“This is really a chance to say ‘thank you’ and express gratitude and reflect on what this year has meant,” she said.

David said the group began writing letters last summer in an effort to brighten the days of those who have felt isolated throughout the pandemic.

“Letter-writing seemed like a way of promoting that human-to-human connection and a way to bring some joy and something a little different into people’s lives,” she said, adding that writing specifically to health care workers is a “special edition” of the project.

Jodi Vinson, program manager for the What Cheer Writers Club, knows that isolation all too well. She contracted the virus while visiting her sister in India last year.

Upon returning home, she and her husband began developing symptoms, which ultimately landed her in the hospital last spring.

Vinson said she was absolutely terrified but found a source of comfort in the emergency room attendant assigned to her case.

“[He] was as intent on finding answers as I was,” Vinson recalled. “He made me feel like we were in it together. I just really appreciate him.”

“I felt taken care of and even though we didn’t have a lot of answers … I’m grateful for his care,” she continued.

That’s why she’s writing him a personal letter, thanking him for being there for her during one of the most difficult times of her life.

“I imagine you have been scared too, maybe for a long time,” she wrote in her letter. “I want to say thanks for going in anyway, for caring for people like me and those facing this disease in its more acute forms. We’re all deeply grateful for your courage and care.”

Vinson said you don’t need to have a personal connection or encounter with a health care worker to write a note.

Anyone interested in writing a letter to a health care hero can sign up on the Dear Rhode Island website by March 20.

In an effort to prevent placing an undue burden on health care workers, participants should not expect the recipient of their letter to write them back. The project will return to its “peer-to-peer” mutual letter exchange in April.

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