Friendly Calls Program creates meaningful connections between volunteers and isolated seniors

Topics: Ontario, Volunteer, Community Health, Psychosocial Support, Virtual and Digital Volunteering
Kirsten Long, Communications Coordinator | November 16, 2020

Katherine Barrer has been volunteering with the Red Cross for seven years, helping various programs including meals on wheels, transportation and friendly visits. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the friendly visits program transformed into friendly phone calls in order to limit face-to-face interactions and keep both clients and Red Cross personnel safe. The need for volunteers immediately went up as demand for the program increased significantly and Katherine decided to lend a helping hand. She joined the friendly phone calls team to help coordinate and make calls.

Each week, Katherine connects with the same five clients for a friendly call and safety check, but to Katherine it is much more than a simple phone conversation. When phoning her clients each week, Katherine looks forward to hearing about their life experiences, accomplishments and milestones. “Every conversation is different and meaningful. It’s a conversation they direct. It’s fascinating to hear the stories behind them” Katherine explains. Listening to these memories and learning about their past is what Katherine enjoys the most about the calls.

A Red Cross study conducted in collaboration with Leger earlier this year, highlighted that nearly one-third of vulnerable seniors consistently reported feeling they do not have people they could count on, identifying the need for additional supports for seniors. As the pandemic has intensified feelings of isolation among Canadians, the Friendly Phone Calls program is even more important. 

Katherine believes that the phone calls allow clients to take their mind off the current pandemic and reminisce about joyful memories from the past. It also helps to take their mind off stressful daily tasks, such as getting to a doctor’s appointment or safely going grocery shopping.

While the friendly phone calls allow Red Cross volunteers to check in on isolated individuals and ensure their health and safety needs are being met, it also allows both the volunteer and client to benefit from meaningful conversations and friendships. In May, Bell Let’s Talk announced a donation of $700,000 to the Canadian Red Cross to expand its Friendly Calls Program to address the increased demands for health and well-being supports for seniors.  With this funding, the Red Cross is expanding the Friendly Phone Calls program in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada in order to help individuals experiencing isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Red Cross is recruiting volunteers for the Friendly Phone Calls Program in various regions across the province. If you want to give back and support those in your community as Katherine does, visit and apply today.