Friend to Friend benefits volunteers and residents

May 23rd, 2012 | By | Category: Joan Cronk

For folks residing in nursing or retirement homes, the days can be long and lonely. Fortunately there is an organization whose mission is to match volunteers with residents to visit one on one.
Marilyn Soderquist, Program Director for Friend to Friend, said that many seniors residing in facilities have their physical needs taken care of, but what they lack is a friend.  Friend to Friend started in 1974 in Des Moines, WA. They now serve King, Kitsap, Snohomish, Pierce and Thurston counties.Friend to Friend draws their volunteers from a variety of areas said Soderquist, such as reading about Friend to Friend on the internet, in the newspaper or word of mouth.
“We ask for two references for every person who volunteers and they are all subject to background checks,” said Soderquist.
Some residents prefer their visits to take place within the facility, while others enjoy an afternoon out for coffee or to shop.  “One resident in Bellevue asked to go to a tavern for oysters and beer,” said Soderquist.
Volunteers take the residents to do things they might not otherwise be able to do.  “Right now, many are planting gardens in their own flower boxes. Some watch ballgames together,” she said.
Connie Benjamin began volunteering with Friend to Friend five years ago and finds the experience, “Absolutely wonderful.”  The lady she volunteered with was named Dottie.
“We saw each other every week and we had a wonderful rapport and when her health failed and she moved to another facility, I followed her there,” said Benjamin.
Dottie has since passed away at age 95, but Benjamin said, “It was good to share my life with her. We shared all of our adventures.”  Benjamin said she learned all about Dottie’s past. “We were almost like family,” she said.
Soderquist said the program is unique. “It is the only program that does this work in five counties. Every facility can meet the physical needs of the residents and they do a good job, but there is no way they can reach the emotional needs of every resident.”
Volunteers visit at least twice a month at their convenience for one year and the visits benefit the volunteers, residents and the staff who care for them Soderquist said, adding, “We went to a volunteer appreciation the other night and one of the volunteers who had been visiting her friend for six years said it was the most rewarding thing she had ever done.”
To learn more about Friend to Friend contact Marilyn Soderquist at (206) 870-4266.

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