After heartfelt letter, woman steps in to help lonely neighbor in need

PARK HILLS, Missouri -- For 37-year-old Marleen Brooks, a property manager from Park Hills, Missouri, this story came as a shock.

"You know, just, you come home from work and in an instant your whole life changes. That's literally what happened," she said.

It was last April when she says a letter arrived. It was such a heartbreaking letter that, even five months later, she still has a hard time reading it. Yet such a heartfelt letter she still carries it wherever she goes.

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Wanda's letter

CBS News

It says: "Mrs. ?, Would you consider to become my friend? I'm 90 years old -- live alone and all my friends have passed away. I am so lonesome and scared. Please -- I pray for someone." 

Signed, Wanda Mills.

The return address was a house across the street and two doors down. A house so quiet, Marleen didn't even think anyone lived there.

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Marleen Brooks

CBS News

"The next day I went over there and she pretty much was kind of shocked that I came over," Marleen said.

It was the beginning of what has become a dear friendship. Wanda is now in a nursing home, but Marleen still visits her at least four times a week. She brings her kids and husband and all the energy that comes with them.

How has it changed Wanda's life? "Well, it helps," she said.

Marleen says it helps her too. She says she always regretted not spending more time with her grandma, and this feels a lot like redemption.

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Wanda and Marleen

CBS News

She even started a group called Pen Pals for Seniors to help end the isolation for others.

"I mean, it could be any of us. And nobody should feel that way, ever," Marleen said.

Sounds like she found a calling.

Amazing how Wanda just happened to write that letter to the perfect person. What a coincidence. Or not.

"Somebody sent her," Wanda said. Who sent her? "God sent her."

Wanda mailed a letter two doors down, but seems pretty convinced the reply came from above.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.