MORE than 64,000 letters, puzzles, postcard, tongue twisters and colourings have been delivered to care homes residents through a scheme to keep people smiling in lockdown.

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is celebrating the first anniversary of its ‘Letter to a Friend’, an initiative which has created a vital lifeline for thousands of older people living in care homes who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Penny Bond, LNER Reserve and volunteer, was inspired to act after realising many residents would be cut off from their families and friends as the country was put into lockdown, and she started putting pen to paper.

Now after being joined by colleagues, ‘Letter to a Friend’ has seen 64,000 pieces of post, including letters, puzzles, postcards, tongue twisters and colourings delivered over the past year, lifting spirits for residents at hundreds of homes along the East Coast route.

She said: “The idea came when I watched ’Afterlife’ with Ricky Gervais, as he visited his dad daily in a care home and it was this that got me thinking how it would impact residents and family and friends not being able to do this during lockdown.

I thought what if I could send in cheerful bits to keep the residents smiling and occupied. The feedback and response have been phenomenal. They love the contact and we’ve gained friends. Once things go back to normal we will hopefully get the chance to meet.”

LNER’s managing director David Horne said: “We are extremely proud of all our colleagues who have shown dedication and supported the NHS, charities and communities during what has been a very challenging year.

"Our people, customers and communities are at the heart of what we do and ‘Letter to a Friend’ has made a difference for so many people, keeping them connected and showing that people care.”