LOST ART: Pilgrimage Garden Club teaches its middle schoolers importance of handwritten thank you notes

Published 10:29 pm Sunday, November 19, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Middle school-age children today perhaps have never written a thank you note, other than one they have sent via a text message.

The Pilgrimage Garden Club and member Julie Johnson are aiming to change that.

On Sunday afternoon, eight PGC fifth through seventh graders learned the importance of a handwritten thank you note, and how to do a good job writing one.

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They also had some fun while doing it, including making Thanksgiving decorations using beads and pipe cleaners and turkeys out of Legos.

“We talked about the basics of why we write thank you notes and when you write thank you notes,” Johnson, who instructed the class, said.

“I asked them when they thought they should write a thank you know and they answered, ‘when you get a gift, or when someone comes to visit who is a special visitor,’ ” she said.

Next, Johnson moved her students on to how to actually construct a thank you note.

“We went through the greeting or the salutation, and then moved on to the first sentence, which should be naming what you are thanking the person for,” Johnson said.

Next comes a supporting sentence, such as how you are going to use the gift, or how much you enjoyed the treat you received from the person.

Johnson said next comes a sentence that ties everything in the thank you note together, “something like, ‘I look forward to sharing these delicious cookies with my friends.’ ”

Lastly, Johnson discussed with her students how to close the thank you note.

“If it’s a little more personal, someone in you family, maybe you write Love, Julie. Or, if the person to whom you are writing the note is not as close to you, maybe you use Sincerely, or Thank you, Julie,” she said.

“Then I let them pick someone they would like to write a thank you to and they got to practice on constructing the note and I walked around while then did and answered questions and gave them instructions like where to put the comma. They got to take those notes home to give,” Johnson said. “They enjoyed that. They thought that was a lot of fun.”

Pilgrimage Garden Club member Emily Carpenter, who owns Serendipity, a stationery and gift company, donated thank you cards used by students in the class, as well as a set of gift cards and envelopes, which were given to one student as a prize during the class. Student Kate Carlton won the Serendipity gift cards.

The class also included what the students thought were fun Thanksgiving activities.

“The first one was to make turkeys using Legos, which was a big hit. Next, they used pipe cleaners and beads to make ears of corn. They loved being able to sit there and talk to each other while doing those things,” Johnson said.

The group also played Thanksgiving Bingo, which featured gift cards to Sonic, Dairy Queen and an AMC movie gift card up for grabs as prizes.

“They were really excited about that,” she said. The class ended with a game of pass the pumpkin.

“We had all these little sentences, and the one who fit the sentence, got to hold the pumpkin. For instance, pass the pumpkins to the person with the longest hair, or pass the pumpkin to the person you’ve known longest. At the end of the pumpkin game, whoever ended up with the pumpkin was the winner and got an Amazon gift card.”

However, Johnson said at the end of the class, the students were more than ready for cookies, made by “Aunt Molly,” Natchez’s own baker and pastry maker, Molly Manning Robertson. Robertson and Johnson are sisters.

“I think they had a great time,” Johnson said. “They enjoyed it and got some learning in. We are at the point now that thank you notes are few and far between. Getting a handwritten note is rare. Some of the students asked if they could text someone a thank you. I told them, maybe, if the person is a friend, but if you don’t get to see that person face-to-face when you get the gift, or a visit, or if someone makes you soup when you are sic, you need to send a handwritten note to that person.

“They have grown up in the digital age. They have no idea a text message is just not sufficient,” she said.

The Pilgrimage Garden Club is specifically targeting more activities toward middle school-age children of members.

“The social committee has really amped up a lot of these activities for middle schoolers. We have lots of activities for younger children, like the gingerbread house building and cookie decorating. And Brenda Zerby from Moreton’s does a flower arranging class and we have junior gardeners. And we have social things for high school and college age children. We are starting to do a little more for middle school kids just to prepare them for social events in the future and any kind of court activities they may begin to do, like parties and other events. This will kind of prepare them for that phase. Getting more of the middle schoolers involved is one of our goals,” she said. “It was such a nice day. The Queen’s Room is so beautiful and such a nice setting, and the weather was so nice.”

Students who attended the class were Mary Virginia Waycaster, daughter of JoAnn and Todd Waycaster; Annie B. Maxwell, daughter of Emily and Chris Maxwell; Mary Blair Johnson, daughter of Julie and Forrest Johnson; Adeline Jeselink, daughter of Annabelle and Zach Wilson; Kate Carlton, daughter of Marcie and Dr. John Carlton; Brooklyn Rayborn, daughter of Amber and Garret Rayborn; Alice Martin, daughter of Alice and Dr. Christopher Martin; Addison Beach, son of Lacey Blessitt and Pierce Beach.