Differences forge friendly calls friendship

By Michelle Palansky, Communications Advisor
Brought together by the Canadian Red Cross Friendly Calls program, Erma Crouse and Sasha Sadlemyer have forged a strong bond over their six months of weekly phone calls.
Portrait of Erma Crow smilingThe differences between the pair are striking, making their shared connection even more special.
Sasha lives in Buena Vista, a village in Saskatchewan, with her husband and two teenaged sons. A retired teacher, she co-owns a car lot.
Sasha started volunteering for the Red Cross because her family was changing. “My boys are becoming more independent, and they don’t need me as much. I felt like I had a calling.”
Erma was matched with Sasha through the Friendly Calls program. A member of Piapot First Nation, Erma and her husband moved to his home community, Ocean Man First Nation, to raise their children and grandchildren.
Erma has seen a lot of tragedy in her life. She lost several children, some through terrible violence. But through it all, Erma kept fighting. She raised a large family, both children and grandchildren, and has been proudly sober for 45 years. Erma remains humble about her achievements. “I’m nothing special. I’m a lady that’s getting old.”
Sasha reflects on their unlikely connection. “We come from completely different backgrounds but we both believe in honesty, treating people with respect, and trying to bring out the best in everyone, and I think that’s how we have made such a great connection together.”
They were first paired after Erma’s husband died of cancer last year.
“I was all alone in this big five-bedroom home,” said Erma. “I was scared to be by myself. I did a lot of praying, a lot of smudging. My grief counsellor in Weyburn recommended me to the Friendly Calls program. That’s how it started.” 
“I got that first call from Sasha. We introduced ourselves and gradually she became the angel I prayed for. She was so sweet and kind and understanding. I share things that are hurting me, and she shares what is hurting her. I love her from the bottom of my heart to the tip of my head, to the universe. She came to when I was at my lowest point in life.”
portrait of Sasha SmilingSasha echoes Erma’s feelings.
“My calls with Erma are sometimes the happiest times of the day. I call her, we cry together, we laugh together, we share jokes together. We talk about everything.”
They are close. “Erma knows me. She knows about my children, my husband. When my Dad was sick with COVID she would pray for him every night. I know a lot about her family as well, and we open up to each other. It’s a safe conversation. I’m the lucky one to have Erma in my life.”
“There’s something special about being told that you are loved by someone you’ve recently met and know that it’s sincere.”
They are both grateful for the Red Cross program.
“I would encourage everyone to try the Friendly Calls program,” said Sasha. “The minimum commitment is one phone call a week. Everyone has 20 minutes a week to build a special connection that they will never regret.”
Erma is equally enthusiastic. “I love the Red Cross for how they reached out and how they helped me. It’s doing me wonders with the special friend that they placed in my life.”
The Canadian Red Cross Friendly Call program has expanded to the Atlantic provinces, Ontario and Quebec. The Red Cross also offers similar services in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Please consider becoming a Friendly Call volunteer today! And if you are or know someone who is 55 or over, is isolated and could benefit from this program benefit from this program in Saskatchewan, please complete and submit the online form here.

To learn more about the Friendly Call program in your area please contact your local Red Cross branch.

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