In a time of uncertainty and isolation, the city of Oakland Park and its volunteers have organized a community phone buddy program to connect volunteers with people, buddies, who may not have contact with anyone else. Bruce Garrison, Director of Oakland Park’s Volunteer Corps, came up with the idea. Garrison reached out to all of the City’s volunteers to see who would be interested. Once he had a list of volunteers he paired them with a buddy. The volunteers reach out to their buddy once a week to see how they are doing.
Dr. Mitch Rosenwald, a resident Oakland Park, is a licensed social worker and said when he first heard about the program, he knew it was something he needed to be involved in. “Serving as a phone buddy provides vulnerable individuals with another source of stability and emotional caring who need this in their lives right now. As a professional social worker, this very much aligns with my professional ethics,” he said. “I have been part of the Oakland Park Volunteer Corps for years and love giving back to Oakland Park.”
Programs like this one are especially important right now, Rosenwald underscores, when residents are being told to socially distance themselves from their friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Coping with Stress and Anxiety
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the outbreak of COVID-19 can be stressful and cause anxiety. Being able to cope with that stress and anxiety, according to the CDC, is critical to maintaining a sense of control and normalcy. One way to do that is by connecting with friends and loved ones on the telephone or via video call.
Rosenwald said that is why this program is so important and something he wanted to be involved with. “This program is critically important. People’s sense of community is abruptly changed and, in some cases, fractured…The Phone Buddy program provides that vital ‘checking in’ for those in need”.
Anytime a person has a question their phone buddy cannot answer, Garrison is available to provide the answers and resources the person may need.
A Friendly Voice on the Other End
City Commissioner Tim Lonergan praised the efforts by Garrison and the volunteers to make a program like this a reality. Its launch came at the perfect time according to Lonergan. “The phone buddy program is extremely important during confusing and difficult times… It’s for people of all ages. Sometimes just hearing a friendly voice or positive word of encouragement can make a difference” he said.
Lonergan shared that there are also resources like the Broward 211 Senior Touchline to support seniors. “I’m thankful for the team at Broward 211 for all they do and to the volunteers manning the phone buddy program line” he added.
Anyone who is interested in becoming a buddy or knows someone who would benefit from having a phone buddy should contact Garrison at email@example.com.