GERTIE Foster may have recently turned 102, but her eyes ‘glowed like a child’s with excitement’ when a good friend presented her with flowers, cake, and a card on her birthday.
This beautiful moment was recounted by Martin Cassidy from the ‘B-Friend Hub Omagh’, who had the honour of gifting the lovely presents to Gertie in person at her Fintona residence.
Funded through’The National Lottery Community Fund Northern Ireland’, the B-Friend Hub project provides telephone befriending and alert calls to older people across Omagh, Strabane and Fermanagh.
Every weekday morning, ‘telephone befrienders’ call members at a pre-arranged time – an initiative they have coined a ‘good morning call’ – to check that all is well… And for a good blether!
Martin, who is also the Omagh Volunteer Centre volunteer co-ordinator, explained that local befrienders have been calling Gertie every day for more than five years, and she thanks them every day for the chats, laughs and company.
“Gertie is one of our longest clients and she looks forward to our calls,” Martin explained. “I had the pleasure of presenting flowers, cake and a card to her as she celebrated her wonderful 102nd birthday.
“She said she ‘felt like the Queen’, and her eyes were glowing like a child’s with excitement,” Martin said. “We take an active interest in people, and over time, we hope to become a good friend on the phone,” he continued.
“We want to share a laugh with these friends, or simply be there to listen and give emotional support in difficult times.”
If a befriender’s good morning call goes unanswered and the person can’t be located, the team will alert nominated contact persons or the emergency services to a potential health problem.
The B-Friend Hub Omagh also offer a ‘home befriending’ service, but this has currently been paused due to the ongoing epidemic. It is hoped, however, that this will be resumed soon in accordance with government guidelines.
The B-Friend Hub Omagh would love for you to become a volunteer, and befriend the elderly over the phone. This friendly call service is available to older people who might feel a little bit isolated, or are not able to get out and about as much as they would like.
Volunteers should be available one-to-two mornings per weekday, and have access to a computer, the internet and a phone.