‘Friendly Phones’ reaches out to local senior citizens

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 October 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Megan Makarchuk, left, is a volunteer with the new Friendly Phones Program headed by Jim Morasco, right, of Catholic Charities.

ALBION – Twice a week at 8 p.m., Megan Makarchuk calls a senior citizen in Albion. Makarchuk asks the woman how her day went, how her family is doing, and looks for other highlights in her day.

The senior citizen then wants updates in Makarchuk’s life. The two have become friends.

“I look forward to calling her,” said Makarchuk, who works as a counselor at the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “She’s wonderful.”

Makarchuk is one of 12 volunteers in the “Friendly Phones Program” run by Catholic Charities. Volunteers agree to give seniors a phone call once or twice a week.

Twenty-five seniors have signed up, seeking a phone call from volunteers. The program needs more people willing to spend a few minutes on the phone.

Jim Morasco is manager of the program for Catholic Charities. Friendly Phones is targeted for Orleans County residents, 60 and older who live alone and want to keep an independent lifestyle. A phone call can help those residents stay connected to the community and decrease feelings of loneliness.

Many local seniors are widowed and their children may live outside the area, Morasco said.

“The number one thing is people say they are lonely,” he said.

Catholic Charities screens the volunteers, and also tries to match their interests with the seniors. Some of the callers have started home visits with the seniors.

Makarchuk is the youngest of the volunteers. Morasco said volunteers are welcome ages 18 and older.

Volunteers interested in the program should call Catholic Charities in Albion at (585) 589-7477.