They say good help is hard to find -- well, not if you are a member of Parkway Heights United Methodist Church!
Parkway Heights has always been mindful of its senior adults and their changing needs. Since more than 25% of members are 70 or older, staff and volunteers had been eager to add programming and support for this group. Beginning in late 2019, ideas such as recreational opportunities, exercise classes, small groups, phone call programs and support systems had emerged.
The North of 70 Ministry was in its infancy when COVID-19 made its unwelcome appearance. God’s spirit was leading as the first planning meeting was held in early March of this year, the same week Mississippi registered its first COVID-19 patients. Thanks to the leadership of several church members, lists of those who might benefit from phone calls and assistance were quickly compiled. Many North of 70 volunteers worked from home and began calling church members over the age of 70 to check on them and offer a listening ear.
As the economy was shut down and quarantine was implemented, additional younger volunteers, including members of the Young Adult Sunday School class, stepped forward to become shoppers for seniors. These generous people with full time jobs, young families and busy lives stepped up to the challenge of finding the elusive toilet paper and hand sanitizer, among other items.
One highlight of this ministry is that it allows members to engage with others with whom they might not normally interact. One thirty-something member made a grocery delivery to an older couple and said she walked away with two precious new friends!
Pam Breland is a volunteer who has also grown her friendships.
“In a time where connections are important, it has been my pleasure to connect with four senior households,” Breland said. “The conversations and visits at a distance have been wonderful. Strengthening friendships with those whom I have known for years and making new friends has been a blessing. I encourage all ages to participate, either as a team member or recipient.”
The appreciation and love are mutual among all volunteers and recipients. Recipient Anne Hutto recently expressed her gratitude.
“Kudos to the North of 70 committee! It has been so wonderful to have someone brave the virus to pick up my medicines, get groceries and run other errands. Because of my health vulnerability, my helper may have just saved my life! May God bless this committee! I am a very grateful 91-year-old.”
Senior adult Nova Corley echoed Hutto’s sentiments.
Corley added, “The many cards and phone calls of care, concern and news have been so welcome. The willingness to run errands of any kind has certainly been a boost to us who are not going anywhere. Thank you for your many blessings!”
Caller Ginger Smith pointed out that the volunteers benefit just at the recipients do. She admires her call partner, 94-year-old Evelyn Stone, and her amazing spirit.
Smith said, “If we miss talking to her, she calls to check on us!”
The connections have not only strengthened relationships with friends but relationships with Christ as well.
“These phone contact opportunities have helped me grow in my walk,” said Vicki Kibodeaux, who calls on two elderly members. “The Holy Spirit has definitely been a part of this journey. There have been several times I have felt a prompt to call one of my friends, and when I did so, it turned out to be what was needed. These ladies have blessed me far more than anything I have done for them. I love my ladies!”
Executive Pastor Julie Collins called the North of 70 Ministry a gift and a blessing.
“During this challenging time full of stress, anxiety and loneliness, people need Christian community. Our callers are providing that with each phone call, thoughtful note or errand,” Collins said. “Our calling to love our neighbors is not something new, but it is ever evolving as we understand the current situation in our church. Now more than ever, we need to give our love, support and care to each other.”
Pictured Above: Young Adult Sunday School class members Amye and Austin Lovitt have been delivering groceries for the North of 70 ministry.