One Friday phone call can make all the difference
“I’m glad to be here for local seniors and let them know someone cares about them.”
Every Friday, Pat, 71, heads to the AgeWell Pittsburgh office at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, a United Way partner, and makes phone calls to local seniors through the CheckMates program – part of United Way’s Open Your Heart to a Senior.
She signed up a decade ago, after losing her husband and retiring after a 32-year-long career as a teacher. “When my husband died, I sometimes wished that someone would call just to talk. Now, I get to be that person that is making the calls for some of these seniors who just want to know someone cares about them,” Pat said.
There are several seniors Pat has called for all ten years of her volunteer experience. For others, while the person she is calling might be different, it’s the same household and phone number. “A couple of people that I was calling have passed away, and this can be really hard. I’ll call to check in on the spouse and ask if they’d like me to keep calling,” she shared. “It’s nice to be there in that time of need.”
While Pat is there to offer friendly conversation and kindness, she is also available to step in and make sure the seniors she’s calling are safe and healthy. “If any of the individuals I’m talking to are having trouble getting to an appointment or the grocery store, I make sure to contact Amy Gold.” Amy is a social worker and the AgeWell Pittsburgh CheckMates Coordinator who is able to connect people to community resources that can help older adults remain independent and in their own homes for as long as possible.
Through it all, Pat sees the CheckMates program as a two-way street. The seniors are making just as much an impact on her as she is on them. “I’m a senior myself now, but I have learned so much from the people I’m calling. It’s a stress-free conversation, where we share stories and information,” Pat said. “I’ve developed so many friendships, and I always look forward to volunteering on Fridays.”
United Way now partners with South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM), thanks to support for the Jefferson Regional Foundation, to expand CheckMates in communities South of Pittsburgh. To learn more about volunteering or signing up to receive calls, contact AgeWell’s Amy Gold 412-697-3528 or SHIM’s Mary Amatangelo at 412-854-9120.