Write a letter that will encourage someone else. 

Help Tucson seniors and health care professionals start 2021 with a bit of encouragement. 

The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance is asking the community to write letters of hope that will be shared with staff and residents at assisted living facilities and hospitals, depending on how many letters are received. 

"Although we're an arts and cultural organization, lots of our programming and outreach is directed toward senior communities and hospitals," says Kate Marquez, the executive director of SAACA. "So for the last 10-plus years, we've had pretty robust arts and healthcare programs where we partnered with these communities throughout the state and provided them with art therapy programs. 

Of course COVID-19 ended that direct programming, but SAACA has continued to serve these communities, putting together care packages of local arts and music. 

"Letters of hope seemed like a meaningful way to end the year, knowing that we're not out of the thick of it," Marquez says. 

Anyone can write a letter to drop off in a mailbox in front of the Christmas tree at the Oro Valley Marketplace. Or you can mail your letter to SAACA at the Tucson Mall: 4500 N. Oracle Road, Suite 110, Tucson, AZ, 85705. 

Drop your letter off in this mailbox at the Oro Valley Marketplace. 

You can get creative with your letter — write a poem, share a story or draw a picture. The point is to share encouragement with those isolated residents and health care professionals. 

Marquez says she lost her own father to COVID-19 in July, and she hopes the letters will encourage people like the doctors and nurses who cared for her father. 

"We had nurses and doctors there holding his hand and praying with him and being by his side, and those are the people, to just encourage them, this is really a way to touch them," she says. 

SAACA hopes to collect at least 400 letters to distribute among local assisted living facilities and the local VA hospital if they get enough. 

"We have all had a moment where we felt low or disheartened," Marquez says. "I know when I wrote my letters, I was thinking of putting myself in those shoes. ... What was something that someone did for you that really encouraged you? What were the words they said or the acts of kindness?" 

The letters will be distributed in the new year. Although the official deadline to drop off letters is Dec. 23, Marquez says they will probably leave the mailbox out at the Oro Valley Marketplace through the end of the year. 

"Usually, we have a big tree lighting celebration and people come to buy gifts, and it's definitely a holiday celebration," she says.  "We thought so many people are in need right now, instead of them coming to the tree with the idea of buying, it's coming to the tree with the idea of giving." 

To drop off a letter for SACAA's Letters of Hope program, stop by the mailbox at the Oro Valley Marketplace, 12155 N. Oracle Road, or mail your letter to the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance at 4500 N. Oracle Road, Suite 110, Tucson, AZ, 85705. 

Visit saaca.org/12-days-of-cheer.html for more information. 

 Other ways to write an encouraging note 

• Why I Love Where I Live has created a set of encouraging note cards that you can print and give. You can also drop your notes off at the shop at the MSA Annex, 267 S. Avenida del Convento, and Why I Love Where I Live will deliver them to health care workers. The shop will collect letters and any small gifts under the tree. For more information or to get the note cards, visit whyilovewhereilive.com/notes

• The Pima County Health Department launched the Pima Love Notes program over the summer to brighten the days of those in assisted living facilities. You can print out one of the colorful templates or make your own card and then mail it to one of the listed assisted living facilities. For more directions and a list of facilities, visit the Pima Love Notes Project webpage.

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