Volunteer Gabby Pritts and Miss Rosemary enjoy their weekly visits through the Meals on Wheels Friendly Visitor program. Credit: Meals on Wheels San Antonio

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Once a week, Gabby Pritts makes it a priority to shut off her laptop and go visit with Miss Rosemary. During their hour and a half together, they often talk – about the news and her health – or play Old Maid. Once, the pair engaged in a marathon session of the game Jenga. Gabby said her visits with Miss Rosemary, who’s in her 80s, is like a vitamin injection. It gives Gabby, who works from home, some much-needed engagement. Plus, Miss Rosemary is teaching Gabby to age gracefully.

“I love the idea of just being able to sit and connect with someone. Just touching them on their hand and acknowledging them is so important,” she said. “Visiting with Miss Rosemary helps me to reset and brings me back to reality after working in a bubble all day. I get to hear her stories and learn what she experienced in life.”

Gabby is one of the many Friendly Visitor volunteers at Meals on Wheels San Antonio. As a special program, we match each Friendly Visitor with a homebound client who’s interested in a visit. In addition to location, the program also considers personality, hobbies, and whether morning, afternoon, or evening visits are preferred when pairing. Friendly Visitors spend at least one hour a week doing things such as playing games, taking a walk, or chatting over coffee or tea.

Meals on Wheels is looking for more people like Gabby. We have a goal to recruit nearly 50 new volunteers this year. This volunteer position is great for people 18 years or older who are studying public health, have careers working with seniors, or who, like Gabby, are inspired to reach out to someone who could use a friend.

By volunteering time, Friendly Visitors can help seniors combat some key health concerns. Too often, seniors who are no longer able to leave their homes can start to feel isolated and depressed. Those negative emotions can exacerbate existing health conditions. According to AARP, both social isolation and loneliness have emerged as major public-health issues. They are worse on health than obesity, and the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to a 2010 report.

However, just a simple conversation can make all the difference to an elderly neighbor. Miss Rosemary’s husband died five years ago and, while she has an adult niece and other friends, she’s extremely grateful to have made a new friend in Gabby.

Through our flagship program, Meals on Wheels volunteers and staff get to interact with more than 3,800 seniors, veterans and homebound residents each weekday. We have learned over the years that in addition to nourishment, our clients also need care and independence to thrive.

Please help us to reach our goal and bring some much-needed companionship to more Bexar County residents like Miss Rosemary: Become a Meals on Wheels Friendly Volunteer. Learn more at http://bit.ly/mowsatxfv.

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Vinsen Faris

Vinsen Faris, CFRE, joined Meals on Wheels San Antonio in 2016 as the chief executive officer. He previously served as executive director of Meals on Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties. Faris is nationally...