Volunteering: giving a little or a lot all makes a difference

Being part of the Canadian Red Cross Friendly Phone Program in Saskatchewan isn’t about talking on the phone, says long-time volunteer Brad Hebert.
 Photo of Brad
“I don’t really talk on the phone a lot,” he thought when he first considered volunteering for the program. “But what I found out was that you don’t need to be a good talker; you need to be a good listener.”
And, as part of the program that pairs a volunteer with a senior who is socially isolated for weekly phone calls, listen he does.
After a nervous start in May 2020, Brad and his Friendly Phone pairing slowly built up their relationship, week by week. “I think we started with a 20-minute weekly call, and yesterday morning we talked for an hour and a half,” he said recently.
“It’s free flowing and we’re talking about everything. We have come to the point that we trust each other and share things we never have before.”
As a 20-year volunteer with the Red Cross, Brad has served in a variety of roles including as a member of the then-Saskatchewan Advisory Council, which later evolved into the Red Cross Executive Council. He went on to serve at the regional level on the Council, ultimately serving as its president.
For Brad, the ability to increase or decrease the amount of time he commits to his Red Cross work based on his personal and family situation, has been one of the benefits that allowed him to stay with the Red Cross for two decades.
In recent years, he stepped back from his volunteer role to devote more time to his three children and grandchildren. But then he heard about the Friendly Phone program.
The Friendly Phone Program was launched in late 2018. It evolved from what was then the Friendly Visiting Program. The phone-based program enables more volunteers to provide support to more seniors. It has grown exponentially over the last two years and now provides support to nearly 70 seniors. The goal of the program is to provide new social connections as well as support and referrals to resources that can help keep seniors in their homes longer.
Brad sees his relationship with his pairing as a partnership. Built over nearly a year of weekly calls, it was particularly valuable when the senior experienced a traumatic incident in the fall.
“Because of our past calls, I was able to recognize that he was in a lot of pain,” he reflects. “If you have a good partnership, and their health takes a turn, you can clearly see the flags and you can try and do what you can.”
In addition to providing an ear to listen, volunteers are also trained to provide links to existing community supports so, working with the program coordinator, Brad was able to put his senior in touch with the resources he needed.
For Brad, volunteering with the Red Cross has been a significant part of his life, and over time, he has come to realize that it is not about how much a person gives.
“Volunteering just a little bit is sometimes just as important as volunteering a lot. Sometimes it doesn’t take a whole lot to make a real difference in someone’s day.”
There are many volunteer opportunities available - For more information visit www.redcross.ca/volunteer
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“Follow my voice” - Chantale Bilodeau’s story
Canadian Red Cross Friendly Phone program helps isolated senior ease pain of loss
From the Lebanese Red Cross to the Canadian Red Cross: one volunteer’s unusual life path
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