It’s early Saturday evening and when her phone rings, Jeannie Hutchison knows it is going to be a pleasant conversation with a new friend, specifically a Carle Friend.
The friend, Jan Uy, a University of Illinois undergrad, says he looks forward to the 30-minute talks once a week. “This level of social interaction is hard to come by in these times.”
The two connected through the Carle Friends program sponsored by Carle Center for Philanthropy, which supports the mission of Carle Health. The program is currently seeking individuals who would like to receive a weekly contact through a telephone call or virtually through a computer call. It could be someone who likes to spend time visiting, someone who has expressed feelings of loneliness, or even someone with concerns about isolation.
Eric Toliver, director of auxiliary volunteer services, said the idea of making connections began with the start of the pandemic and concerns about individuals feeling isolated.
Successfully piloted at the retirement community, Windsor of Savoy, the hope is to expand the Carle Friends program into other areas where Carle has facilities, including Bloomington-Normal, Olney, Mattoon-Charleston, Eureka, and Danville, Toliver said.
Currently, there are openings for those wanting to connect with a Carle Friend volunteer. Adult volunteers who want to serve as Carle Friends and make calls are also welcome. Those individuals wanting a Carle Friend complete a form indicating their willingness to participate as well as their interests. Those interests are used to match the individual with a volunteer.
Jeannie Hutchison said she and Jan have interesting conversations about their families and books. She said it is truly a small world as she learned in their conversations that he is from the same Chicago suburb where her great granddaughter is currently completing an internship.
“I definitely look forward to it,” said Uy, who is studying molecular and cellular biology toward a pre-med degree at the University of Illinois. “Doing this program made me realize I should spend more time talking with my grandparents.”
Jeannie said, “I always let him end the conversation as he is a busy young man.”
Volunteers are also asked to complete an application and submit to a comprehensive background check as well as participate in training about active listening, cultural sensitivity, online safety, and what to do if someone expresses a medical concern or appears to need additional intervention or support during the call. The minimum time commitment is a semester for a university student and six months for other adults.
To learn more about the program, or volunteer, contact (217) 383-4653, or email Carle.Friends@carle.com.