Organization seeks volunteers
MARQUETTE — Since the creation of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, the non-profit volunteer-based organization has helped thousands of isolated and lonely elders worldwide by providing life-long friendships, even reaching those in secluded areas like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, originally named Little Brothers of the Poor, was founded in 1946 by a French nobleman, Armand Marquiset. Marquiset’s motto was “flowers before bread,” which reflects the organization’s belief that everyone needs love and friendship in their lives.
According to the Little Brothers website, all services are free to anyone 60 or over and are designed to relieve the isolation and loneliness that can produce emotional pain and mental and physical deterioration. Combined, the organizations serve 52,500 elderly in the world with an estimated 21,000 volunteers providing companionship to those in need.
In 1982, Little Brothers began a local chapter in Houghton. Since then, the organization has expanded into five counties in the western U.P. including Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon and Marquette counties.
According to Randy Grenier, the program manager at Marquette’s local Little Brothers chapter, the organization is need of volunteers.
“We’ve only been in Marquette for a few months and we’re off to a good start but we definitely need more volunteers. We’re looking to double what we do but we also need people’s help,” Grenier said.
Grenier said he’s received many referrals from community members regarding lonely and isolated elders, stating that the “numbers are definitely there.”
“Once someone is in our program they become our ‘forever friends,'” he said. “We even attend people’s funerals.”
Volunteers fill out an application at the office located at 1716 Presque Isle Ave. in Marquette, Grenier said. Afterwards Grenier and the volunteer meet with an elder in the program to see if their personalities “click.”
Once the volunteer is comfortable, Grenier steps out of the picture and allows the friendship to unravel. Volunteers are partnered with elders based on each of their personalities, Grenier said.
Volunteers are asked to visit their forever friends a minimum of twice a month but are “encouraged to visit more.”
“If they wanted to go out and get a cup of coffee or go to a movie, that’s fine,” Grenier said. “We just ask that one of the monthly-visits be in-home.”
Grenier said volunteering with Little Brothers is a wonderful opportunity for students that might be living away from their families and friends. It’s also a great opportunity for students pursuing social work careers.
“The application is a super easy process and you get to change somebody’s life,” Grenier said. “People can just give me a call at the office and I’ll help them through everything.”
The organization also serves holiday dinners on Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter day. They also provide the option of delivery.
To volunteer or make a holiday reservation locally, call Marquette’s chapter of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly at 906-273-2575.
Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.