Growing Red Cross program creates connection for isolated seniors

Topics: Saskatchewan, Community Health
August 13, 2021

woman with glasses looking into cameraThe numbers tell the story.
The exponential growth during 2020/2021 in the Friendly Calls program, in both the number of those supported and the volunteers who supported them, shows
the need for this Red Cross service in Saskatchewan.
The program matches trained Red Cross volunteers with people aged 55 and over who are feeling lonely or isolated, who may have limited social and family connections, or who feel they could benefit from more social interaction. Through a weekly phone call, social connections are enhanced.
Initially intended for those in rural communities, the program expanded across the province in 2020/2021 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the program has continued to grow, providing socialization and referrals to people in many new geographical areas, including First Nation communities.
For one client, the Friendly Calls program was there at the lowest point of her life. Erma Crouse, a member of Piapot First Nation, was paired with Sasha Sadlemyer of Buena Vista, after Erma’s husband died of cancer in 2020.
At the time, Erma was living in her husband’s home community, Ocean Man First Nation, where they raised their children and grandchildren.
“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.”
Although their differences are striking, Erma and Sasha have forged a strong bond over their six months of weekly phone calls.
“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,” said Erma. As a testament to the success of the program and the growing need for this outreach, variations of the Friendly Calls program are being introduced
by the Red Cross across Canada.
In Saskatchewan, the number of participants nearly tripled in 2020/2021 to 68 and the number
of volunteers increased to 131, a jump of 500 per cent.
“It’s such a simple idea,” said Shawna Green, Friendly Calls program coordinator. “Red Cross
volunteers pick up the phone and call people who need some human contact. That’s it.
“And it really works. Not only do volunteers provide care and conversation, but they check to
make sure their partner has access to groceries, medications, or even professional counselling if needed. We are helping to keep our community connected.”
If you know anyone who would benefit from this program, please email Shawna Green at or call 306-216-6602.
2020-2021 Saskatchewan Report Back to the Community
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