By Heather Janssen

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The Sacramento community is coming through to help seniors when they need it most.

Local nonprofit Eskaton has seen a surge in the number of people asking to volunteer and chat with seniors at a time when many are feeling lonely.

It can be a simple “hello” or “how are you,” because sometimes it’s the simplest of questions that matter most in times of turmoil.

“I’m here for no less than seven hours a day, and I’m constantly on the phone,” said Larry Dawes, one of Eskaton’s volunteers.

He volunteers daily to speak with our community’s most vulnerable by answering their calls for help or just being a listening ear for those on the other line.

“I love it,” said 83-year-old Ella Molder, “I look forward to it.”

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Molder calls them her “phone-a-friend,” a voice she’s happy to hear daily.

“I can honestly say they are the most caring compassionate group of people,” she said.

Molder is one of many seniors who can’t leave their homes or interact with people much amidst the coronavirus crisis. She’s among the population Eskaton has the resources to help in this time of need.

They’ve taken millions of calls over the last two decades. These volunteers make hundreds of them a day. Now they’re prepared to double their number because of the current public health crisis.

“We are seeing a wonderful response from our community,” said Linda Whiteside, the outgoing manager for Eskaton Telephone Reassurance.

The call center exists to check on seniors who may not have someone to check in most days. Sometimes it’s the only conversation they may have.

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“If they tell me they’re doing great, but they sound sad or depressed, I’m going to explore that a little further,” Dawes said.

Dawes returned to the telephone reassurance program just a couple of weeks ago because of the need he knows exists due to COVID-19.

A need that will benefit people like Molder. For her, each conversation means so much.

“No matter who calls me, I don’t care if I get a different volunteer every day,” she said. “It’s a safety net for seniors.”

Eskaton is looking for more seniors to check on during this crisis. All information, whether it’s signing up a senior or to be a volunteer, can be found by calling 916-334-1072 or visiting Eskaton.org.

Heather Janssen

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