Butler student Chris Stein launches letter-writing website. Photo courtesy of goteer.org
LEA MARIE JAFFE | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
In March 2020, first-year economics major Chris Stein noticed a problem — aside from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As entire communities were sequestered to their homes during the first stay-at-home orders, feelings of isolation and loneliness spread as quickly as the virus, particularly for those who lived alone. This did not sit well with Stein, and he developed his own way of combating it — Teer.
Teer is a virtual platform where anyone can send a paper or electronic handwritten letter to anybody, for free. Letter by letter, Teer hopes to create a sense of wholeness and unity, according to the “Our Mission” tab on the website.
The era of handwritten letters has shrunk as technology has advanced. Now, a simple text — maybe featuring a few choice emojis if one is really feeling the love — is sufficient substitute for many. While the ease of pulling out a smartphone to send a quick message is practical, Stein felt that it did not convey the same level of emotion and care that handwritten notes are laden with.
Stein, alongside his two highschool friends, began mapping out Teer in the early months of 2020.
“When I am not focused on my school work, I am focused on Teer,” Stein said. “I facilitate the day-to-day operations.”
Stein’s highschool friend Marcus Franco is the co-director and digital coordinator of Teer. He said in a message that he views Teer as a creative avenue for expressing human emotion.
“Teer is compassion, connection and love,” Marcus said in a message. “These are the qualities of life that we highlight in everything that we do. We are pioneering thoughtful ways to do so.”
To send a message on Teer, all one has to do is enter a name, choose an envelope color and message, then enter the recipient’s email and home address. The ease of the “Send a Letter” feature allows users to send out as many letters as they please. Letter writers can even upload photos of handwritten messages that can be printed out and sent to recipients to add another level of personal touch.
Rami Daas, a first-year biology student and creative director of Teer, said in a message that he believes that Teer is especially important and tailored for one vulnerable population.
“Teer is combating senior loneliness and isolation with appreciation and care,” Daas said in the message.
As the platform evolved, Teer introduced Generation Match pen-pals. The feature allows individuals to be paired with a senior from a long-term care facility.
To match with a senior, all someone has to do is press the “get started” button, fill out an application form and submit. In the form, prospective letter-writers can check off their hobbies, type in their favorite things to do on the weekend and even share which famous person they would want to have dinner with. The applicant’s information is then matched to senior citizens who have mutual interests.
Whether an individual chooses to write a singular letter or become long-term pen-pals with senior citizens, they are making a difference much greater than they might believe, according to an article by Robert Schmerling, a senior faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing.
“The impact may be particularly profound on people who are elderly, already have dementia, disability and psychological problems: these are precisely the people for whom social connectedness, routine and structure are most important,” Schmerling said in the article. “The pandemic has taken a lot of this away from them.”
Although Teer has changed its initial focus of connecting people of all ages to combating senior loneliness, the message of spreading more love to those who need it remains the same.
“This is an issue that has been going on for years and was worsened by COVID-19,” Stein said. “We had no idea this would be so popular when we started it, but people love helping their seniors.”
From strengthening current relationships to creating new ones, Teer can allow the community to show appreciation to the ones who deserve it most.
“As people, we all have our unique challenges,” Daas said in a message. “The one thing that unites us all is the feeling of being appreciated. At Teer, we fight loneliness and show care for one another. Whether it’s a friend, a neighbor, our elders, or even just a stranger: let’s inspire one another and show everyone that they are appreciated.”