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Connie & Debby

connie_Debby_Jan2016January 2016, Monthly Letter: “Friends Are the Family You Choose”

It had been years since Connie had been to her old stomping grounds in Freda, a nearly-abandoned mining town perched on a wind-scoured beachfront on Lake Superior. At 89, frail and still recovering from the paralysis of a stroke, Connie gets around only with the help of a walker or wheelchair.

On this day as she looks out at the old smokestack that dominates the skyline, however, she recalls memories of an earlier time when she was young enough to climb among the rocks at water’s edge and scamper around the old stamp mill. She’s been brought here by her Little Brothers’ friend Debby, who visits Connie regularly and is concerned about how isolated and homebound she is.

It took a little cajoling to convince her to leave home for an afternoon, but once she did, Connie was delighted. They passed through the old neighborhood and stopped to chat with a woman out getting her mail who just happened to know many of the same families that Connie did. Soon the recollections were flying, and Connie was sharing memories of her early years in Freda when she and her sister raced across a meadow and her sister slipped in a cow patty, making Connie collapse in laughter, and of later memories of dancing as a young woman in Houghton.

Getting out of the house and having a chance to reconnect to an old, familiar place is crucial for Connie, but the opportunities are few and far between. Her grown sons live as far away as Tennessee and New Hampshire, so there is no family nearby to look in on her. Many of her friends have passed on. For the most part, Connie would rather stay home, in the house built for her by her first and dearly-beloved husband, but living independently is becoming increasingly difficult. Like many of our elderly friends, the task of readying herself to be seen in public, and then navigating strange stairs and uneven pavement can seem herculean.

For many years she was able to hire neighbor girls to run errands, do some light housekeeping, and go shopping for her. Since she must hire out snow removal as well, this home help takes a toll on her limited income, and the last neighbor she had relied upon is moving away, leaving Connie very much on her own.

Fortunately she has reached out to Little Brothers and is no longer alone. Debby brings groceries from our food pantry, but when she found out that Connie was trying to make do with a once per month shopping trip in order to save the money of hiring someone to shop for her, Debby offered to pick up her groceries on a weekly basis, especially the perishables. But Debby does much more than just errands. She provides a much-needed reprieve from that other companion—the television—by engaging her in conversation. She admires Connie’s mind which is still “sharp as a tack,” and compliments Connie’s efforts to brighten up her home for each season with her chicks and flowers, Santas and goblins.

When we say that service to the elderly begins by being a friend, this is what we mean—a friend notices the other’s hardships and joys, and realizes when a little coaxing is needed to accept help. We are so very grateful to our donors and volunteers who have steadfastly allowed us to befriend so many elderly folks like Connie.   “Friends are the family you choose,” says author Jess C. Scott. We are so very grateful that you have chosen us.

Thank you for your continued support!!!!


Cathy Kass-Aten
Executive Director