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Buddy Program Provides Socialization and Genuine Connection for Clients

In January, Coal Creek Meals on Wheels launched a Buddy Program to provide additional socialization and connection for clients who were at risk for isolation and loneliness. Our Client Services Manager developed a social isolation screener, which is now included during the intake process for all new clients. Using this screener, she identified our clients at the highest risk of isolation and invited them to be a part of the Buddy Program. Clients can also request to be a part of the program and are often referred by volunteers who deliver their meals.

During this time, our Volunteer Coordinator began recruiting volunteers to act as “buddies” for our clients. Many of our first “buddies” were current volunteers who were looking to get more involved with our programs and develop stronger relationships with our clients. Based on similar interests, volunteers are matched with a client and meet at least two hours per month outside of the clients’ regular meal deliveries. Many “buddies” spend time chatting, playing games together, reading, or just spending quality time together.

One of our Buddy Program matches is Ava and Cheryl. They meet once a week on Mondays in Cheryl’s home, often spending their time “chit chatting” as Cheryl put it. “I’m usually the one doing most of the talking - I’m kind of a motor mouth,” Cheryl said.

Cheryl and Ava hit it off immediately. Because she lives alone and doesn’t get out of the house often, having regular visits with Ava gives her something to look forward to. “She’s very kind. Ava is fun to talk to and she listens to me - I enjoy asking her about how work is going and how she’s preparing for school that will be starting soon - I’m going to miss her when she’s no longer here. But I’ve been blessed with this friendship,” Cheryl said.

Their meetups aren't scripted affairs; they're all about going with the flow. Sometimes it's casual conversations about current events, sometimes it's exploring Cheryl's treasure trove of memories, like her life in Kansas and Nebraska or her dad's Remington typewriter that he used to type out the Christmas cards each year. Each moment is precious, with each laugh a reminder of the magic that happens when we connect with one another. “It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of and share stories with. But also to laugh with - that’s really important,” Cheryl said. 

As Cheryl looks back on her time with the Buddy Program, she's overflowing with gratitude. “I appreciate getting the daily meals, but Coal Creek Meals on Wheels offers so much more than that with the Buddy Program. I’m sure there are so many other people who would enjoy having someone come in to chat and share stories together,” Cheryl said.

Along with volunteering for the Buddy Program, Ava also volunteers at the Coal Creek Café. “I’m just having a wonderful time because everyone is so kind and sweet,” Ava said. “What you’re doing goes further than just the immediate impact, and I appreciate being a part of that.”

In the heartwarming tale of Cheryl and Ava, we see the true essence of the Buddy Program—a simple idea with a profound impact. It's about more than just meals and meetups; it's about spreading joy, forging friendships, and making the world a little brighter, one connection at a time.

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