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Downtown Wetumpka's Sweet Home Books is teaming up with a Laurel, Mississippi bookstore to offer a pen pal program to area residents.

Diane Castro, owner of Sweet Home Books, said she was contacted by Sonya Dykes, the owner of Laurel's The Bookstore in the Window, about the idea to start the pen pal program.

"Residents in both cities have had the similar yet unique experience of having their hometowns featured on television," Castro said. "Because of our shared experience, Wetumpka and Laurel have become like sister cities. The goal of this is to provide a platform for people to get to know each other, talk about life in their hometown and what it was like for them to see their hometown and people they know on TV. Both towns have become tourist attractions so people from Wetumpka can talk to Laurel residents about things that no one else would understand."  

Castro said children who sign up to participate in the program are paired with another child around the same age. Adults are not paired by age. Right now, Castro said 15 children and adults from Wetumpka have pen pals, while a couple of others are waiting to be paired.

"It was originally supposed to be just for kids, but we had just as many adults who wanted to sign up as we did kids," Castro said. "That was a pleasant surprise."

If needed, Dykes has prepared writing prompts to help get the conversations started. Castro said postcards featuring Wetumpka landmarks and landscapes, which can be found in her bookstore, have been a popular choice for sending letters.

"We're just getting it kicked off, but we're hoping this will be an ongoing thing and that these pen pals will develop long-lasting friendships," Castro said.

The best way to contact Castro about becoming a part of the pen pal program is through the Sweet Home Books Facebook page. To join, send a message that includes the participant's name, age (for children/minors), email address and home address. Castro said contact information will be kept confidential -- she and Dykes will be the ones mailing the letters.