Friends for Life extends appreciation to volunteers

Story by Madalyn Watson | Staff Writer, Video by Kennedy Dendy | Broadcast Reporter

Friends for Life hosted a We Love our Volunteers Valentines Event to show their appreciation of their about 1200 volunteers from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10th.

In the Waco Friends for Life office, volunteers who have helped improve the quality of life for senior citizens and people with disabilities gathered for Valentine’s Day-themed desserts, photos and a recognition ceremony.

The executive director, Inez Russell, founded Friends for Life 30 years ago because she was unable to find an organization that could give a support system to the elderly that had no family or people to take care of them.

“This year, we celebrate 30 years of serving the elderly and people with disabilities, and we do that in several ways,” Russell said.

The event was dedicated to recognizing the hard work of Friends for Life volunteers to help celebrate the fact that the organization is turning 30 this year.

“Volunteers are an amazing part of what we do at Friends for Life. They help people know that they’re not alone. They’re our eyes and ears with clients that we might not get to see as often as we’d like to see them,” Russell said.

Friends for Life operates an adult daycare center, a guardianship program that allows the organization to serve as a guardian to people without them, a Money Management program that aids people who need help with their finances and an Adopt a Grandparent program, as well as other programs with the help of their volunteers.

“There are just lots and lots of ways that they make life better for these people,” Russell said.

To show their appreciation, Russell thanked everyone for the help and a few volunteers spoke about their experience with Friends for Life in front of the crowd.

Cumming Ga. sophomore Morgan Halverson spoke about her experience working with the Adopt a Grandparent program.

“I started doing Friends for Life actually in October for a class. I’m a gerontology minor, so we had to do 15 service hours in my gerontology class,” Halverson said.

Halverson mostly did office work when she began working with Friends for Life. She was calling some of the clients and filling out a survey for them.

“I call this one lady, and we started talking about pimento cheese grits. She started telling me her recipe about [how she] makes them and I was like, I love her,’” Halverson said.

She emailed the volunteer coordinator and asked if the woman she spoke with on the phone about grits could be her adopted grandparent.

“I try to call her once a week. If we can’t hang out, I just chat with her as long as she wants. When we do hang out, it gets pretty wild. We watch some Hallmark [movies], and we will eat good food,” Halverson said.

Halverson said she loves talking and spending time with her adopted grandmother.

“You wouldn’t think volunteering would be fun, but it is. Especially when you have a cool [adopted] grandmother,” Halverson said.

After Halverson and a few other volunteers spoke, Russell asked all of the volunteers to stand up, state their name and something about their experience volunteering.

While the volunteers in the audience stood up, Friends for Life employees passed around gifts for each volunteer as a thank you for all their hard work.

“We have this gift that we made for them, and many of our clients signed the back of the gift, so that was fun,” Russell said.

During and after the presentation volunteers mingled, took photos in a heart shaped photo booth and ate Valentine-themed baked goods donated from local bakeries.

“We were blessed [that] so many places in Waco donated food, so we have a lot of yummy stuff to eat,” Russell said.

To become a volunteer for Friends For Life, apply on their website.