Local Advocate and Mentor Finds Balance in Helping Seniors

Matt LaBelle

EFS was instrumental in allowing my Dad who was in his 80.s, to remain his fiercely independent self and inspired me to become a volunteer myself. EFS makes it easy to volunteer to support senior independence—on your schedule. Honestly, I get more than I give every single time.

I know that when an older individual retains independence, there are enormous neural benefits that help maintain proficiencies that would otherwise rapidly decline. I first contacted Eastside Friends of Seniors shortly after my Mother passed away in 2015. My Dad was in his 80’s, living alone, and wanted to keep it that way. Even with three loving adult children, he was lonely and needed something more than my siblings and I could give.

Knowing he was a recent widower, EFS sent out the very compassionate Ramona to visit Dad and find out the best ways EFS could support him, on his own terms. It was touching to see her with him, so considerate of my Dad, his needs and feelings. I’m certain she would have talked to him all day if he wanted. She found a match for Dad in Roger.

Roger, in his 60s, lived just 10 min away and was paired with my Dad as a companion. Roger would help Dad at home, drive him to an appointment or the store, but primarily they would just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. They would get together a few times a month and go to the community center together or my Dad would host Roger at his place. I loved watching a different side of my Dad come through when he hosted Roger. He’d never needed to play the host when Mom was around…I was surprised he knew how, and I think he was too.

Although it took my Dad six months to be OK with the idea of reaching out for help, I’m grateful he did. Roger became a close friend and confidant for my father. I know that Roger’s interactions and friendship with my Dad were critical components to him living a fulfilled life, in his own home, until he passed away at age 89 in 2019.

I now volunteer with EFS as a driver, on my schedule and all I can say is, “WOW.” Working with the seniors in our area is simple and I get so much more than I give. The paired companionship that my Dad had with Roger doesn’t fit my lifestyle, but EFS provides many services that allow me and other volunteers to provide meaningful assistance to our local seniors in the way that works for you. Driving seniors to appointments is often a primary roadblock for those living alone without the ability to drive.

EFS makes it so easy to choose times that work in my schedule, I sign up for a time-slot, receive information about the senior I will be driving and the appointment location, then I call the client the day before to introduce myself and remind them when I will be at their front door. Often, I will see the client safely in the door and wait to escort them safely back to my car, and their home.

I love that I get to meet so many incredible people this way, these clients are real characters. Quite a few have been here for so many decades and will share how life has changed in our neighborhood, county and state which always fascinates me. I’ve uncovered such rich, untold histories in our area.

Unexpectedly, I also get great advice for my life—even helpful dating tips sometimes! Sharing goes both ways and spending quality time with people, I’ve found that seniors offer incredible perspectives and viewpoints on matters of heart and everyday life. They’ve already made the mistakes I’m contemplating and have so much experience to draw from. Volunteering as a driver is simple, not a big hit on time, and adds an incredible balance to my life.

I deeply enjoy each ride and new human connection I make while volunteering with Eastside Friends of Seniors…I would almost pay them to volunteer.