When Adrienne and Norman Schreiber attended a friends funeral who made service to the community one of his priorities, they decided they wanted to leave a positive legacy for themselves as well.
So Schreiber and his wife decided to spend their time with homebound senior citizens.
Last year, they met Beverly McLaughlin, 80, of North Fort Myers, through the Lee County Senior Friendship Centers — a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life for elderly people. They became volunteers of Friendship At Home – developed for homebound seniors who may need supportive intervention, friendly visiting and/or telephone reassurance due to loneliness or isolation.
Now they may run errands together, go out for breakfast; even take McLaughlin’s cat to the vet. They give McLaughlin occasional mobility and companionship in a world that is difficult to navigate when you’re 80, partially deaf and have a difficult time walking.
While McLaughlin has a success story, she is one of the lucky few. Throughout Southwest Florida, nonprofits that help the elderly find themselves in a volunteer crisis.
Nearly a dozen Southwest Florida senior citizen service providers, including nonprofits, churches and for-profit businesses, agreed that growing numbers of low-income elderly people are becoming more isolated as transportation and companionship services grasp for volunteers.
Nancy Green-Irwin, executive director of the Senior Friendship Center in Fort Myers, said her organization has more than 600 people on a waiting list for its services. Friendship At Home helps to fill the gap while low income seniors wait for services they cannot afford to pay for privately. Friendship At Home may help to prevent them from having to go into a nursing home when it’s really not necessary.
Green-Irwin said the recent closing of Faith in Action, a transportation-providing subsidiary of Community Cooperative Ministries (CCMI) in Fort Myers, has compounded an already overwhelming need for volunteers. Because the Senior Friendship Center is a multifaceted senior service provider and receives funds for those most in need of in home care; seniors who “just” need transportation are lower priority on the waiting list. Sarah Owen, CEO of CCMI, states they had to cancel their volunteer transportation program because the organization could not obtain liability insurance. They now refer clients needing transportation to other senior services providers – including Senior Friendship Centers.
If interested in volunteering for Friendship At Home and providing friendly visiting or telephone reassurance please contact Margaret or Liz at 239.275.1881 in Lee County, 941-613-2299 in Charlotte County, 863-494-5965 in DeSoto County and 941-955-2122 in Sarasota County.