Volunteers keep Knoxville seniors from feeling left alone


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A group of volunteers in Knoxville is making sure the elderly are not left alone and that someone is looking out for them. The group, called Connecting Hearts, is making a difference.

The Office on Aging in Knoxville/Knox County runs the Mobile Meals program, in which a hot meal is delivered daily to seniors.

However, after the meals are dropped off, there’s a need for extra companionship. Connecting Hearts provides one-on-one time volunteers to seniors, thus reducing the chance of abuse or neglect

Life’s rich experiences are indispensable. For Wanda, a 73-year-old widow on a fixed income, a weekly visit from Marsha Reep has brought her happiness. 

Reep, a Connecting Hearts volunteer, visits Wanda weekly providing friendship and a listening ear. With Wanda’s grown children unable to visit frequently, Reep fills a void faced by many seniors who live alone. 

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“Being isolated is difficult in general. But once you are isolated, you are more likely susceptible to scams. People prey on people that don’t have family checking on them,” said Judith Pelot, who manages the program.

“You know life is pretty complicated. There is a lot of information coming to seniors in a much different way that it used to. It’s all very confusing. So it’s just good to have someone else come into the home, laying eyes on the situation, developing a relationship and watching out for them,” Pelot said.

Reep brings Wanda lunch when she visits.  Connecting Hearts puts a volunteer in the home of a senior outside of the daily Mobile Meals time. This way volunteers spend extra time, an hour or two a week, connecting during those hours when no one else may be checking on the older adult. 

“In Wanda’s case, I noticed she did not have food in her pantry or her refrigerator. I knew she was getting Mobile Meals, but that is just one meal a day. Her family works out of town, she told me. So I knew they weren’t connecting with her that often. So we decided to bring groceries to her which we did. And we also got her frozen meals for the weekends,” said Reep.

“Mobile Meals that are coming in is not quite enough. So having a bag of groceries of easy senior friendly food helps,” said Pelot.

Wanda is pleased to be part of Connecting Hearts and says Reep is now her friend.

“A lot of clients don’t necessarily want to go anywhere. They just want people to come and talk to them. The groceries are great, but I think what they really need is somebody to talk to them and just listen,” said Reep.

There is a big demand for Connecting Hearts volunteers. They work through the Office on Aging. If interested contact 865-524-2786 and ask for Mobile Meals. 

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