In the era of Zoom and social media, the phone is still a great tool for meaningful connections.
That’s the thinking behind the new Telephone Reassurance Program through Catholic Charities, Diocese of Joliet, which is seeking both clients and volunteers, said Crystal Del Rio, coordinator of the program for Will & Grundy Counties.
Del Rio said the “friendly caller program” matches volunteer callers to older adults through weekly telephone conversations. The goal is to reduce isolation and loneliness. Coordinator Ed Howe started the Telephone Reassurance Program in 2020 in Kankakee County, and it has expanded to Will and Grundy Counties, Del Rio said.
“You can connect from the comfort of your own home,” Del Rio said. “You don’t have to go anywhere. There’s no travel involved. You make friends over the phone. It’s really a lovely program.”
Clients must be at least age 60, live independently in Will, Grundy or Kankakee county and want to be part of the program, Del Rio said. The program is perfect for “people who want to socialize with someone who cares,” she said.
“We have a great volunteer group,” Del Rio said. “They really do care about their clients.”
Volunteers must be at least 18 and able to pass a background check, she said. Volunteers also participate in a two-hour training and a monthly, hour-long meeting, she said.
“They have to be a great listener,” Del Rio said. “They need to enjoy socializing with others.”
Volunteers should complete two phone calls per week per client, she said. Phone calls can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as 30 minutes, Del Rio said.
“Some folks might just want a quick check in to see how it’s going,” Del Rio said. “Others want to talk a bit longer. As long as the volunteer and client agree to it, it works for us.”
Zoom calls are fine if both parties agree to it, Del Rio said. But in-person meetings are not.
“We encourage them to keep it phone-based,” Del Rio said. “We want to keep it simple for them.”
If clients or volunteers prefer a more “person-to-person” arrangements, the senior companion program or foster grandparent program might better fit them, Del Rio said.
If volunteers have questions or concerns, Catholic Charities has “a lot of great information at their fingertips,” Del Rio said.
“We’re always open to revisiting any issues that comes up,” Del Rio said. “If someone comes across a situation that’s more than they can handle, we ask them to reach out to Ed or me. We’ll work through it with them.”
Ideal volunteers for the Telephone Reassurance Program are people who want to “make a difference through friendly phone calls from the comfort of their home, she said.
“These people truly do make a difference,” Del Rio said.
For more information, call Del Rio at 815-221-6020 or email email@example.com.