When 82-year-old Dorothy Lutz moved to Scranton, she didn’t know a soul. A native of Hollisterville, PA, Dorothy spent most of her life in the country before retiring to the city. However, she quickly embraced her new circumstances. “They say if you want to have friends, you have to show friendship,” Dorothy says. “So, I just started speaking to everyone and saying hello.” With her cheerful, welcoming attitude, Dorothy quickly gained a new community of friends, first at Amos Towers and then at her current residence, Lutherwood Apartments.
Now, she also uses her passion for connecting with people as a volunteer with Telespond’s Senior Companion Program.
As a Senior Companion, Dorothy visits older adults in Lackawanna County for a few hours per day, providing a watchful eye, assistance with everyday tasks, and—most importantly—long-lasting friendship. She is one member of Telespond’s dedicated team of adults ages 55 and older who bring this free service* to support the elderly throughout her community. Below, Dorothy shares how she became a senior companion and how the program has impacted her life.
When and why did you begin to volunteer with the companion program?
I started volunteering about three years ago this July. I had heard about it at different times and met Nancy and Kathy at the community room here, and thought it would be something good to do—much better than sitting at home.
What is your favorite part about being a Senior Companion?
I don’t know if I have a favorite part! It’s truly a joy. You get to be a part of your clients’ families, and they get to be a part of yours. I play cards with one lady who is 96 years old, and she loves 500 Rummy. Of course, sometimes she tries to cheat, and sometimes I let her get away with it! I have attended the wedding of a granddaughter of another client, and I regularly have lunch and pray with a few of the ladies. I visited a man for a while who I called my “second George,” because George is the name of the fellow I’m dating. I had another lady downtown who I used to bring homemade soup to every Tuesday. The Senior Companion Program has just been an absolute blessing. In fact, it seems like it’s really almost a bigger blessing for me than for the clients!
What challenges have you encountered as a Senior Companion?
The biggest challenge for me is when you go to someone’s home and have to park on the street. I prefer parking in a place like my apartment complex, where there is a big parking lot and you don’t have to worry about the snow. But I’ve never have any problems with the families whatsoever; everyone has been absolutely fantastic.
Share a memorable moment from your time as a Senior Companion.
I used to visit this lady in my building on Wednesdays, and I always ate lunch with her. I took my lunch, and she always had a Banquet dinner. Every time I came, she’d say, “You’d better be careful, or I’m going to steal your sandwich!” So, I asked her if she would like a sandwich, and she said she would love one. I went into my apartment and made one, and from that Wednesday onward I took her something. We had pizza, Texas wieners, all sorts of things. I’d walk in and she’d say, “Let’s see what you’ve got today!” I let someone know in the building and they said they could prepare something, but I said, “No, let me do this.” It was a pleasure. I also went with her to her doctors’ appointments on the blue bus. It was a challenge, but she was a sweetheart. She didn’t mingle with a lot of people, and they said I kind of opened her up a little bit. She has since passed, but it was such a blessing to see her joy.
How has your past (personally and professionally) influenced the work you do as a Senior Companion?
I was raised on a farm in the country. We were really poor—I was one of eight—but I never realized it because we had love. We always had family dinners and reunions and happy times, and we were taught to live that way: to love everyone, to share, and to do things for others. I spent 43 years driving a school bus and loved connecting with people there. I was also very active in the Hollisterville Baptist Church and sang in the choir. I guess I have always enjoyed being around people. And most importantly, God has been great to me; He has given me everything I have and the strength to do everything I have been able to do.
What led you to Northeastern PA?
I grew up out in Hollisterville, PA, which is actually my family town. I lived there for over 50 years. When I retired and needed an affordable place to live, I came to Amos Towers in Scranton and then moved to Lutherwood, which is more in the country. When I moved from the country to the city, I made up my mind that I was going to be happy, and I’ve grown to love it here. A few months ago, I spent time with my daughter in South Canaan and thought that the country actually wasn’t for me anymore!
Tell us about your family.
I have two daughters and a son, five grandkids, seven great grandsons, and another one on the way. We don’t know yet if it’s a boy or girl. I’m very happy with my family and very pleased with what God has given me.
Share a fun fact about yourself.
I love to sing! I have always enjoyed singing in the choir at church. I also love to drive. I drove to Connecticut with my brother to see our sister, and I have driven to Harrisburg by myself.
Have you remained in contact with clients during the COVID-19 outbreak?
I’ve stayed in touch with all of them. There are two in my building who I hear from and see almost every day. The others I call as well. It’s nice to hear from them, but it’s nicer when you can see them face-to-face. I’m looking forward to meeting in person again soon.
Would you encourage someone to volunteer with Telespond?
Anytime I meet someone who doesn’t know what to do with themselves, I tell them what I do withTelespond. To me, this is a fantastic program for anyone who is retired and has time on their hands. It gets you out of the apartment; even if you don’t drive, you can take the bus to visit people. I also think everyone needs that companionship, that time to sit and talk with other people and share your views—even if you’re just talking about the weather. Nancy and the other staff at Telespond are great; I always enjoy the monthly get-togethers with the other senior companions and look forward to resuming them in-person.
This is the best program I’ve ever found, and I’m so appreciative to get to be a part of it.
* Telespond’s Senior Companion program is free for residents of Lackawanna County.