By Stephanie Malench
Before the internet, people of all ages would get to know people from other parts of the country and world through paper letters selected through pen pal organizations. After telling the organizer where you wanted to communicate with someone from, the organizer would select someone and give both of you each other’s address. Both parties would wait at the mailbox for a letter to come.
Fast forward to 2017 when Courtney Tutka of Maryville was dealing with anxiety and depression and found pen pal groups where people would write old fashioned letters to other members to cheer them up. Tutka found the group helpful and started million little letters pen pal group on Facebook in 2019 “as a group to send letters to anyone who needed them to make them feel a little better.”
I consider my pen pals some of my closest friends,” Tutka said, “because I can tell them anything.”
The group is open to women of all ages and already has over 2,000 members participating across the globe. Once a woman is accepted into the group, she writes an introductory post introducing herself and where she is interested in a pal from. Most of the women exchange addresses and send paper letters to each other. Although digital writing has gained in popularity during the pandemic, Tutka says pen to paper letters still make up the majority of letters sent.
Tutka said she writes about 50-100 letters to new pals each month. She hopes to get linked with nursing homes that residents are looking for pen pals.
Members get into the letter writing so much that they started decorating envelopes and stationary for their letters. Tutka then started making envelopes and “pen pal kits” for new members, posting tutorials in the group for the women to make their own envelopes and flip books out of scrap book papers and “pocket letters” made with baseball card sleeves.
Because of the popularity of her crafting skills, Tutka started an online business creating pen pal kits, stationary, envelopes and mailing labels online for people outside the group to purchase.