PUNXSUTAWNEY – As the pandemic shutdowns continue into their second month, Community Action is launching a new program to help people, especially seniors, get through the time of isolation and loneliness.

Samantha Schrecengost, Senior Corps RSVP Director for Clarion, Jefferson and Indiana counties, said that Senior Corps has around 300 volunteers age 55 and older who normally perform a number of tasks, such as working at food pantries, providing home meals, helping at hospitals and staffing senior centers.

Now, as part of the new Phone A Friend initiative, some of those volunteers will be making calls to people cut off from the rest of the world by the pandemic.

“Loneliness and isolation are huge issues with seniors,” Schrecengost said, noting that the problem has become worse since people were asked to stay at home, and children and grandchildren may not be able to visit or check on a senior loved one.

With the new free program, Schrecengost said that those who would like to receive a friendly call can sign up by contacting her office at (814) 938-3302 ext. 236 or by email at volunteer@jccap.org.

She said that those who sign up will be called two to three times per week by volunteers to talk with them and see what they are in need of. Schrecengost said that the volunteers can help direct people to the resources they may need to solve their problems.

While Schrecengost said she hopes the Phone A Friend program will continue long after the pandemic is over, she acknowledged that now is the time it is needed.

“It’s needed now more than ever,” she said, adding that the program isn’t just for senior citizens, but for anyone who is feeling isolated from being home alone for so long.

“We want to make sure people know someone is there,” Schrecengost said. “That way everybody has a friend they can talk to.”

In addition to those wanting to sign up to receive calls, Schrecengost said anyone wishing to volunteer to help with the program can also contact her at the above number.

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