Chris Noble recalls when an 82-year-old woman approached him at an event, with tears in her eyes.
She asked him: “Can I be one of those people you call?”
The woman was referring to calls made through a telephone reassurance program called Telepals.
It’s one of the programs offered through Seniors in Service, a nonprofit dedicated to providing solutions to community challenges by engaging volunteers ages 55 and older to help others in need.
Telepals began during COVID-19 to help keep people socially connected, to combat the issue of isolation and loneliness among the elderly.
Participants can choose between long weekly social calls, or short-and-sweet daily check-ins.
Noble is the community engagement manager for Seniors in Service.
As he was talking to the woman who approached him, he learned that the woman’s husband died a couple years ago and was having a tough time connecting with people.
During that conversation, Noble also learned that the woman’s husband was under hospice care, and she had nothing but great things to say about the service he received.
Plus, he found out the woman had experience working in a nursing home.
He suggested they meet at a local hospice, and when they did, she filled out an application.
The hospice workers took it from there.
Fast-forward six months, when Noble gets a call from the woman.
“She said, ‘I want to call and thank you so much for encouraging me to volunteer because it snapped me out of the funk I was in. I made some nice friends, and I have a little more sense of purpose now,’” he said.
Success stories like this one are so rewarding, said Noble, who lives in Dade City.
He firmly believes that volunteering helps others, as well as the volunteers themselves.
“Being engaged and being part of the community and having that camaraderie and that sense of connection with people… it makes you feel good,” Noble said.
When Seniors in Service was founded in 1984, it had 17 employees and about 450 volunteers. Now, it has 34 employees and close to 1,400 volunteers serving Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The nonprofit helps disadvantaged children, frail elders, overwhelmed caregivers, disabled adults, struggling veterans, hungry families and others.
“We primarily began our journey by working with seniors and getting them to go into the public schools to be teacher aides. We called the program ‘Foster Grandparents,’ and it’s still around today,” Noble said.
Just in Hillsborough alone, Seniors in Service has between 200 and 300 volunteers for Foster Grandparents.
Over the years, Seniors in Service has applied for grants, enabling it to broaden its scope and reach more people in need.
Initially, the nonprofit provided help in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. But four years ago, it secured a grant and has branched into Pasco County.
Noble came onboard Seniors in Service when it came to Pasco and was the one to spearhead the Pasco RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) program.
Noble and his team have connected with people in Pasco who are “55 and better” and are looking to give back, and introduce them to Seniors in Service’s community partners.
“We go out into the community and say, ‘Hey, do you have a couple hours to give? We will find you a place to volunteer with one of our community partners who works with other seniors. We will find the right place for you to serve around your schedule and availability,’” Noble said.
Another program Seniors in Service offers is ‘Health Buddies,’ which helps an individual with a chronic illness manage that illness.
“We do it through a medicine called companionship,” Noble said. “We have somebody over a 12-week program provide companionship three to four times a week. They have someone to share that burden with. It has been very powerful and effective.”
Seniors in Service
Where: 1306 W Sligh Ave., Tampa
Details: Seniors in Service, which was founded in 1984, connects volunteers, ages 55 and older, to meet the needs and challenges of at-risk seniors, veterans and children in the community. The nonprofit serves Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties and helps more than 2,500 individuals annually through community service.
For more information or to volunteer, visit SeniorsInService.org, or call Chris Noble at 813-492-8916.
Published March 08, 2023