We must do something!” the email began.
Mrs. Chana Baila Hass, National Director of Bnos Agudath Israel, continued reading, “There are many elderly who have nothing to eat and no one to shop for them and don’t have technology to connect them with outside volunteers. An elderly person needs people to call them and ask them what they need. WE CANNOT WAIT FOR THE ELDERLY TO REACH OUT!”
The service coordinator’s words echoed in Mrs. Hass’s head. While Bnos Bikur Cholim (BBC) runs many programs that match seniors with high school friends, they were all on hold due to the Corona pandemic. Visits and programs were out of the question for our most vulnerable population.
What could BBC do? There was only one option – going virtual with phone calls to seniors. BBC already had a group of high school volunteers for its “Call a Few” program, but it wasn’t enough. So, Mrs. Hass sent out emails and placed an ad in the FJJ asking for more. The response was overwhelming. To date, BBC has over 300 phone pairs.
Each volunteer got the name and phone number of one or more seniors and began making calls to their new friends a few times a week. The immediate benefit is obvious; the calls dispel the loneliness that the homebound elderly feel. But the calls go way beyond that, helping on a practical level:
-An older woman mentioned that she couldn’t get a moisturizer that she needed for her face. Her phone friend arranged a delivery from a local pharmacy.
-When some seniors indicated that they needed food, Bnos arranged for home-cooked meals to be sent.
-A volunteer became concerned when she couldn’t reach her senior by phone. She alerted the proper authorities who found that the older woman was sick and needed critical care!
The BBC phone calls saved that woman’s life.
And even when the calls don’t produce such dramatic results, the volunteers tell Bnos how happy the seniors are when they call. They say it makes their whole day! Some of the older adults haven’t seen another human being for seven weeks. They are terrified of leaving their houses. Simply talking to another person fulfills a basic need.
The volunteers also emphasize the huge returns on such a small amount of time. As one woman put it, “This is the time that we should be there for one another. What does it take from your week to make a ten-minute phone call?” We’re all limited these days, but making a phone call is something we can do from home.
Another volunteer urges us to put ourselves in the seniors’ shoes. “One day, we’ll be sitting in our houses, waiting for the phone to ring. Everyone will get older one day and be in the same boat.” And, of course, this mitzvah will still be relevant even after COVID19 ends.
BBC All Year
A special thank you goes to the Elie Wiesel Holocaust Survivors Initiative, sponsored by City Council of New York, for supporting BBC Holocaust programming.
*Weekly visits to Holocaust survivors by high school volunteers
*Weekly nursing home visits by high school volunteers
*Providing clothing and food for Holocaust survivors
*Calling seniors through our “Call a Few” program
If you’d like to join the BBC virtual program, BBC still needs more phonemates! Be in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-797-9000 ext. 330. Or, do you know an older person in your neighborhood? Pick up the phone and give them a call. Giving ten minutes of your day can be life-changing for your senior friend.