Friendly phone calls make all the difference

By Michelle Palansky, Canadian Red Cross Communications Advisor

A couple of years ago, Gwen Schick retired. She discovered that she missed meeting people in the course of her travels for work.

So, Gwen started volunteering as a Friendly Phone volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross in Saskatchewan.

The Friendly Phone program pairs volunteers with seniors who feel they could benefit from weekly phone calls. That’s it. Two folks chat on the phone for about an hour a week. No mobility issues to negotiate, no travel expenses to incur, just a friendly phone call.

Always a critical service, during this pandemic, Friendly Phone volunteers make a huge difference helping seniors manage physical and social isolation. They make more frequent phone calls if they can, and they ask additional questions to ensure seniors have the medications and groceries they need.

Gwen is paired with Ruth Crow. Ruth lives in a long-term care facility, and she has a visual impairment.
Ruth Crow and Red Cross volunteer Gwen Schick are pictured together here, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ruth Crow and Red Cross volunteer Gwen Schick are pictured together here, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We do a lot of reading,” explains Gwen. “Stories help to open the conversation because she [Ruth] is still really bright. We talk about her life experiences.”

“It brings me companionship, something to look forward to each week,” says Ruth. “Conversation really brightens my day.”

Ruth’s son cannot say enough about how much the Friendly Phone program has helped his mother, joking that Gwen has moved into the number one spot with his mom. And he’s not complaining.

Ruth and Gwen have been paired for just over a year now and Gwen says that it has really opened her eyes. “The amount of time doesn’t matter. Even short contact is so meaningful. Such a little thing makes such a big difference. I love it. I really love it.”

Learn more about the Red Cross Friendly Phone Program in Saskatchewan. Contact Shawna Green, Friendly Phone Program Coordinator by phone at 306-216-6602 or by email at

See your impact in action.

Sign up to receive impact updates from the Canadian Red Cross, inspirational stories from the field and be the first to hear about emergency relief efforts.

The Canadian Red Cross takes your privacy seriously. We do not distribute or sell your email address to anyone. View our privacy policy.

Blog Archives