December 22, 2012 8:10:15 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Lula Hudson spent 30 years of her life taking care of other people. She nursed hospice patients for nine of those. The Columbus resident is now 82, and CONTACT Helpline reassurance callers are doing their small part to help take care of her.
Hudson is one of about 310 senior or disabled reassurance clients in eight counties CONTACT volunteers or staff check on each day with a brief phone call. It may seem like a small thing, but to some of those clients, it may be the only other voice they hear that day
"My family is all up north, and especially if you don't have any family around, to have somebody calling and checking on you, I love it," said Hudson, expressing gratitude. "They are so precious, just so precious."
As in Christmases seasons past, the nonprofit agency is collecting and delivering lap blankets or other items like gloves, scarves, socks or caps to its clients.
"Most are seniors, and they get cold easily, so we try to get them something warm to wrap up in, and someone delivers the gift to them with a comforting and cheery visit," said Lindy Thomason, CONTACT executive director.
The gifts are taken to clients in Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Choctaw, Monroe, Noxubee, Webster and Winston counties by callers and other volunteers from churches, Scout troops, community organizations and businesses.
Cleo Lee is one of the callers on the other end of the phone for about 50 of the daily reassurance clients. She stands ready to deliver Christmas gifts, too, if needed. In the two months since she became a volunteer, she has come to value the experience.
"It's very rewarding; you get to know them -- it's kind of like a family," explained Lee. "We may remind them to take their medicine, and sometimes they want to talk a little bit. I may never meet them in person, but I know their voices and enjoy talking to them."
Like Hudson, Missouri Montgomery of Starkville receives the regular reassurance call. Even though the 83-year-old has family nearby, she is comforted by the daily contact.
"Yes ma'am, some time my daughter might not be there, or something could happen, and if they don't get an answer, they call next door," she said, referring to CONTACT's policy of calling a back-up number in case they can't reach the client.
"We can always use more volunteer callers, even if they want to work just a couple of hours a week," said Reassurance Coordinator Esta Hayden. "And if anyone anywhere knows of a senior who would benefit from the reassurance call, we would love to come talk to them and add them to our program."
Hayden is also available to speak to groups of any size. CONTACT, a United Way agency, welcomes volunteers for its 24-hour helpline, too. To learn more, call 662-327-2968. Tax deductible donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 1304, Columbus, MS 39703. Donations of lap blankets, gloves, scarves and small toiletry items for reassurance clients will be accepted at 223 22nd St. N. through Dec. 31.
"We really appreciate all that people have done," Thomason emphasized.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.