Finding friendship through Open Your Heart to a Senior

“I didn’t expect to develop such a strong friendship. Volunteering has been so rewarding.”

Elizabeth Cooley learned about United Way’s Open Your Heart to a Senior through a friend at United Way who thought the volunteer opportunity would be a good fit for her. She became a volunteer in 2008 and began making check-in calls with local seniors once a week.

“Seniors hold a special place in my heart, and I just thought there is no reason why I couldn’t do that. To check in on someone once a week could be really nice for someone else, and I wanted to help,” Elizabeth said.

What started as weekly short check-in calls turned into a long-lasting friendship. Mary Ann was added to Elizabeth’s call list in 2009, and the two hit it off right away. “We just clicked.”

Now, Elizabeth and 93-year-old Mary Ann talk twice a week – every Sunday and Wednesday for about 45 minutes. They discuss their daily routines, Elizabeth’s job, Mary Ann’s family, and they work through issues together that Mary Ann might be facing, such as home improvements or doctor appointments.

“For Mary Ann, it’s nice to interact with someone different. I see her more now as my adopted grandmother,” Elizabeth noted. “I like to hear her stories of when she was a kid. Ienjoy and appreciate the times I share with her over the phone.” Elizabeth, a Pittsburgh resident, schedules at least one visit per year with Mary Ann, who resides in Fayette County.

Elizabeth encourages others in the community to get involved with Open Your Heart to a Senior. “Seniors have such valuable knowledge and stories to share,” Elizabeth remarked. “It’s so rewarding to brighten someone’s day by just taking a small amount of time a week to do something nice for someone else – especially a senior who might be lonely.”

Visit unitedway4u.org/oyhs for Westmoreland County opportunities or uwswpa.org/open-your-heart-to-a-senior/ to volunteer in Allegheny County.