Brenda Barry stopped to take a call before dropping a hamper, donated by a local GAA club, to a vulnerable client living alone in the Cork countryside.
“He’s outside our area but he’s been a client of Friendly Call for years, he’s vulnerable with no direct family so I wanted to make the extra effort,” Ms Barry of Cork’s Friendly Call said while pulled into a lay-by outside Midleton.
The service, through which volunteers telephone the isolated and vulnerable for a daily chat and check-in, has seen a 27% hike in phone calls since Covid-19 restrictions began.
Some 40 volunteers now serve 390 people, physically isolated in their homes but kept connected to the outside world by the Friendly Call team.
Run through Cork City Partnership and funded by the Cork ETB, HSE, and charitable donations, Friendly Call is now getting daily referrals through the Cork City Council Community Response Helpline, public health nurses, social workers, and Alone.
And Friendly Call has augmented its service to fight isolation during the pandemic, they are now also arranging grocery deliveries, dog walks, prescription collections, and even birthday greetings.
Last week, a Friendly Call volunteer was reduced to tears when she saw how happy a new client — who turned 93 that day — was when she brought him a birthday cake and Easter egg on his special day.
“Some people don’t have anyone, a birthday card from us is the only one they’ll get,” Ms Barry said.
“Anyone who’s isolated or anxious, we can talk to them, and if they need anything practical we can help with that too. You get to know the person, and their needs.”
Her colleague Gary Hornibrook had dropped a donated TV to a woman who was cocooning alone with no television.
“She has been locked in for weeks and her TV was broken,” Mr Hornibrook said. “So we brought her a TV along with a bag of groceries.
“She said she’d be lost without the service. Some people haven’t been out of the house in four weeks because they have underlying health conditions or immunosuppressant illnesses that could make this virus fatal. A lot of people are really appreciative when we’re there to help.”
Friendly Call has saved people who fell in their homes, sending someone to investigate when their Friendly Caller could not get through.
They build up trust and relationships over the calls, so the Friendly Callers can also help their clients access auxiliary services when necessary.
“We have regular volunteers who will call the same people, say every Monday,” Ms Barry said.
“People get quite familiar. One of our ladies waits in bed until she gets the call every morning. A daily phone call can be so important.”
For more information on Friendly Call or to register, call Brenda Barry on 021 430 1700 or 087 636 6407.