SARASOTA COUNTY,  Fla. (SNN) — Senior residents of Bay Village recently donated $11,500 to Wilkinson Elementary. 

Wilkinson is a Title I school serving students that are on free or reduced lunch, many who live in poverty.

The donation allows teachers in 52 classrooms to get essential school aids without spending their own money.

This isn’t the first time Bay Village has donated to Wilkinson. Residents of Bay Village tell SNN the school has done just as much for them.

They have a partnership stemming back to 2019, beginning when inspiration struck senior resident, Martha Bonham, in the middle of the night.

“I was inspired in the middle of the night to think about what Bay Village could be doing. And I thought we oughta be working with children, and maybe even a school,” said Bonham.

The partnership has resulted in ongoing projects like student chorus performances, collaborative science projects, and a warm clothing winter fundraiser.

“We are able to give them money where they can buy hooded sweatshirts, sweatpants, warm clothes for kids who really can’t afford to buy their own,” said Bay Village resident Terry Kall.

Wilkinson Elementary isn’t the only one benefitting from the partnership.

“The people that are living in places like Bay Village, a retirement community, they may feel forgotten. I think bridging that gap and helping them feel like, ‘hey I can be a part of this community still. Even if my ability, my physical ability has changed, I can still contribute something to the life of a student and their education,” said Wilkinson Elementary School Principal Susan Nations.

Every month, 40 senior residents and 40 students exchange pen pal letters. Then, they finally meet at the annual “Pen Pal Picnic.”

“When you finally get those two together, just to see the excitement on the faces and the communication that takes place and the storytelling that goes on, that’s what’s exciting to see. How lives have been changed,” said Bay Village Chaplain Chuck Moffett.

Moffett says senior residents are even learning lessons from Wilkinson students.

“They come here and show us, literally sitting around a table, what is a project that they’re working on. They get to teach us, we get to learn,” he said.

“It’s a thrill to watch these youngsters and how talented they are,” said Bonham.

Bay Village and the Wilkinson team meet once a month to brainstorm ideas for future events.