Friendly Visitors program offers hope for the lonely

Inside Catholic Charities

by Ken Williams

Frances was happily married for 40 years and raised two children, both of whom graduated from college and enjoyed many evenings with friends from her local church.

Then, all of a sudden, she finds herself alone. Her husband fought cancer as long as he could, but eventually succumbed. Both of her children followed successful careers out of state, so their visits are limited to holiday weekends. But even holiday visits have been getting more difficult as they raise families of their own.

Even though Frances raised her family just blocks away, was an active member of her church and taught in the neighborhood school, she felt alone in the world.

Pope Paul VI once said, “In youth, the days are short and the years are long. In old age, the years are short and the days are long.”

Frances agrees. She thought some days would never end. Then one day she received a call from Molly, who explained that she was a volunteer for Catholic Charities’ Friendly Visitors program. Molly explained that Frances’ pastor was worried about her and contacted Friendly Visitors on her behalf.

Over the next month, Molly called several times a week to check up on Frances. Frances found herself looking forward to the calls. They chatted about all sorts of things and Molly never seemed in a hurry to end the conversation.

Fast forward a few years and the phone calls turned into twice-a-week visits. They play cards, talk about the news and talk about their children and grandchildren. Molly even gives Frances a ride to the grocery every so often. They have become friends. Good friends.

This is not a unique story for Catholic Charities’ Friendly Visitors program. Friendly Visitors matches volunteers of all ages with seniors in the community that just need to hear from a friendly voice.

Sometimes, the volunteer simply calls each morning to ensure their friend is OK, and to let them know they are just a phone call away. Sometimes, the volunteer makes visits in the home. Sometimes, they provide rides to church or to the grocery store. And sometimes, like Frances and Molly, they just visit.

Each situation is a little different, but the volunteers all have one thing in common: They recognize that these seniors built our communities, founded our churches, taught in our schools and fought for our country. They are true treasures of our community. They view their volunteer role with Friendly Visitors as a privilege. And it’s fun, too.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “How incessant and great are the ills with which a prolonged old age is replete.”

Maybe so, but seniors in northeast Kansas have hope through Catholic Charities’ Friendly Visitors program.

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