The offices of State Rep. Jay Livingstone and City Councilor Kenzie Bok are working together to recruit volunteers to check in on seniors in their districts over the phone to see if they are in need of food, medication or just friendly conversation.
More than 100 volunteers had reached out to 1,000 seniors as of Saturday – just one week after the initiative was launched – and their offices are working together using a single phone bank for Beacon Hill, the West End and the Back Bay, which are neighborhoods that both elected officials represent. Volunteers for Rep. Livingstone are also reaching out to Cambridge seniors and Councilor Bok’s volunteers are connecting with seniors in other neighborhoods in her district, including Mission Hill, Longwood, Audubon Circle, the Fenway and Kenmore.
“Most seem to appreciate just receiving the call, and some have asked for regular check-ins,” Rep. Livingstone said. “Some have specific needs where they required additional help, and our offices have been connecting them with that help, but people getting the calls really just appreciate that someone cared enough to check in with them and see how they’re doing.”
And the experience has proven to be as gratifying for volunteers as it is for the seniors receiving their calls.
“The callers have really enjoyed connecting with their neighbors, and it’s really heartening to see how many people want to connect with neighbors and provide help at this time,” Rep. Livingstone said. “It doesn’t look like the situation is going away quickly so we’re going to continue this for the foreseeable future.”
Like Rep. Livingstone, Councilor Bok has also heard this outreach has meant just as much to the volunteers as the call recipients.
“What’s amazing is seeing the urge people have to help now, and it’s a chance for neighbors to check in with neighbors and see about what they might need as far as food, social contact and medication go,” Councilor Bok said. “Concretely it can also help identify specific needs we can help people with, which is really important at this time because so many people are finding themselves in a situation they’ve never been in before.”
Councilor Bok also credited the Beacon Hill Civic Association for getting the word out about this effort via its daily e-blast and in the organization’s weekly Community Corner column in this publication.
“We’ve been happy to be able to assist Rep. Livingstone’s and Councilor Bok’s offices to send those requests around and people really want to help and pitch in any way they can,” said Patricia Tully, executive director of the Beacon Hill Civic Association.
Councilor Bok said, “We have some amazing volunteers from Beacon Hill, and not to stoke some friendly competition, but Beacon Hill has had far and away the most calls so far.”
Meanwhile, Councilor Bok said during the COVID-19 pandemic, the telephone has come back into vogue.
“It’s funny in some ways that in this situation the telephone has come back as real lifeline for people,” Councilor Bok said.”For a lot of people in the community, the phone is best way to contact them.”