PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Like many non-profits, Meals on Wheels People has had to lessen its interaction with the seniors it serves due to social distancing but volunteers are hoping a new phone call program gives those seniors critical human connection. 

For many Meals on Wheels recipients like Walter Knapp, those deliveries are more than just a meal. Knapp is part of the nonprofit’s new phone service called Friendly Chats. 

Meals on Wheels People had been planning to launch the service within the next five years but decided to start it early due to the pandemic. 

Catie Ellis with Meals on Wheals People told KOIN 6 News the volunteers each have five clients whom they call once a week. Each volunteer is trained and their background is checked. Ellis said volunteers can talk about the client’s pet, any of their hobbies, the weather, etc. 

“It’s more of a social call than the usual well-check calls that our staff do,” she said. 

And the social connection goes both ways. 

“I think now we are all starting to realize what it means to be truly socially isolated so these Friendly Chat calls are just as rewarding for the volunteers as it is for the clients,” said Ellis. 

“They really contact people and encourage them and check on them and I need that. I need somebody to do that me,” said Knapp. 

Volunteer for the Friendly Chats program