Comfort in a Call

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By Katherine Matuszak  |  Photos by Darren Lovecchio

You’re alone in your house. The kids live too far away to check in often. Plus, you know they’re busy with their own children. You don’t go out much anymore, and realize it’s been a long time since the phone has rung.

This situation is all too familiar in many communities. Fortunately, some do-gooders in Carmel found a solution in Seniors Helping Seniors. Almost 30 years ago, in September 1987, the Carmel Police Department started this program, which is designed to help the elderly population that has little to no contact with friends or relatives. Over the years, the program has helped many seniors who cope with everyday life alone. The program organizes volunteers who contact their seniors daily contact the senior daily, checking in by phone to ensure they are safe. This program gives their members the security of knowing there are individuals who care about their welfare. Many children of seniors living far away also take advantage of this program to help with the care and safety of their parents.

The Carmel Police Department acts as a switchboard for their group of senior volunteers, who come to the police department each morning and make phone calls to their list of senior recipients. Police Chief Paul Tomasi speaks fondly of the program: “The daily contact provides a sense of comfort to our seniors and lets them know that people care about them. The volunteers also provide a valuable service to the police department.” If one of the volunteers calls a participant and there is no answer, Tomasi explains, a police officer is dispatched to the participant’s residence to check on that person.

In addition to the calls, the program provides a holiday luncheon, yuletide gifts, birthday greeting cards, and holiday cards to let them know they are being thought of throughout the year.

For over 20 years, this program has been run by Community Service Officer Lisa Johnson, who, with her own time and often her own expenses, purchases gifts, organizes the holiday luncheon, and gets to know each of the participants in the program.

Lisa explains why it works: “It’s a great program because our city’s so small, we’re able to enjoy a quaint, personal program. A lot of cities can’t do this, and we have a lot of resources and help. We’re small, so we can take care of them.” Lisa hopes to include even more events for the seniors in the program, including a tea party she’d like to plan each spring. “They love being called, and it puts a smile on their faces,” she continues. “I was born and raised in Carmel, and when I think of my grandparents, I wish they had this back then.” Tomasi affirms: “Without Lisa’s caring nature and dedication to the program, it would not be nearly as successful.”

Over the years, the number of participants has varied. There are currently only five participants in the program, and they have had as many as fifteen in previous years.  The Carmel Police Department encourages more people to take advantage of this wonderful program.

To limit the impact on the Carmel community, the Seniors Helping Seniors program relies heavily on donations.

To become a recipient, or a volunteer, or make a donation, contact Lisa Johnson at ljohnson@ci.carmel.ca.us.

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