Mobilize Katahdin Phone Buddies program a great way to reach out

Originally published in the Katahdin Region News

By Shelley Farrington

KATAHDIN REGION – Mobilize Katahdin continues its work to help citizens from Millinocket to Sherman.

With all the social distancing and self-isolating there is a genuine concern for citizens who are shut-in, have no family locally or are just lonely. MK Resource Navigator Shelly Blaisdell said a program called Phone Buddies is addressing some of those concerns.

She said there are currently 10 volunteers, both men and women, are signed up to be someone’s “phone buddy.”

“If someone is lonely or just needs someone to talk to we’re here,” Blaisdell said, “all they have to do is request a phone buddy and we will do our best to match them up with someone who has similar interests, someone that they can connect with.”

She said the initial call is used as a “get to know you” call and that the callers can set up a schedule of follow up calls. The person receiving the call is in control of when the calls are made, how many, the frequency – it’s an agreed schedule, she said.

Blaisdell said she’s taking referrals from individuals or organizations that have contact with residents that they think can benefit from the service. She said she makes initial contact to see if a person is interested in the service (if it isn’t a self referral) and they go from there. Once the phone friendship is established often times a conversation will lead to providing more assistance to that person or finding out that someone else is in need or could use help.

The phone calls can also comfort relatives who live away by knowing their loved one is being checked on regularly and has a person to call on for help or just to chat.

Anyone interested in becoming a phone buddy or referring someone to the service can contact Blaisdell on the MK website and just click on the “need help” or “I can volunteer” tabs. There’s also a place to donate if you’d like to help in that manner. People can also send a message on the organization’s Facebook page or call Blaisdell at 370-1581. She said inquiries are answered within a 24 hour period and many times sooner.

Blaisdell said volunteers are trained before they call and privacy is respected.

“The social outlets that people used to have just aren’t available now,” Blaisdell said, “you can’t go out to coffee with your friends or go to your weekly card game. Those kinds of check ins aren’t happening so this helps. This is just old fashion neighbor checking on neighbor. We want to do whatever we can to help.”

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