BURLINGTON, N.C. – In the digital age, the art of handwriting letters is quickly being replaced by emails, tweets, and text messages.

At Hillcrest Elementary, the art of handwriting a letter is not dead.

For a second year, Ms. Allred’s second grade class has teamed up with Burlington Police Department for a semester-long pen pal project.

Throughout the fall, the students and officers have exchanged hand-written letters with updates about their lives and questions and answers about the officers’ jobs.

This year’s effort concluded with an end-of-the year holiday party that included a gift exchange, holiday snacks, games and selfies.

One of the pairs, Sergeant Jennifer Matherly and Saul, have even gotten to spend time beyond the pen and paper letters they exchange.

“Matherly, Jennifer is awesome and she’s cool and she’s nice,” the second grader said. “We’ve eaten together.”

Matherly supervises the Community Relations division and helped Ms. Allred make her project come true.

“This year was just a repeat because the success was so overwhelming that we thought it was worthwhile to do it again,” Matherly said.

Matherly says that when she sent out the email to the department requesting pen pal volunteers, she got more responses than she even needed.

Every two weeks, the students and officers exchanged letters. But for officers like Sgt. Drew Garringer, this was also an opportunity to get to know and work with kids in a more positive light.

“We often times get to meet kids, but we don’t really get to meet them under good circumstances, unfortunately,” Garringer shared, saying this opportunity is “invigorating” as they get to share the good part of the children’s day.

Rachel Kelly, with the City of Burlington, says “This project is a shining example of community partnerships and the value of thinking outside of the box.”

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