Rekindling a spark

This hand holds a treasured photograph of cherished family and sweet memories. This hand once opened classroom doors at Julliard School of Music. It wielded a violin bow, producing sweet sounds and entertaining concert guests. Now this hand waves to ElderHelp volunteers who drive Maggie to her regular doctor’s appointments and make sure she arrives safely back home. Living alone, she fills her world with stories of encouragement and hope, inspired by idols like violinist Itzak Perlman and Olympic athlete, Naomi Osaka. Maggie shares, “the greatest heroes in the world are those that never give up. They sacrifice things in their life in order to exist. At times our light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person or an organization. I thank ElderHelp with my deep gratitude, love and respect for all that you do.

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History in the Making

Behind the scenes but front and center…that’s how we’d describe volunteer Sharon Turner. Her humility, soft-spoken demeanor, and steadfast support touch every aspect of ElderHelp’s operation…and have done so for nearly 30 years. “I’ve been searching for the article that started it all,” shares Sharon. Serving on the board of the North Park Historical Association, Sharon located binders of past newsletters. Sifting through the archives, she found the 1993 article requesting grocery shopping volunteers for ElderHelp. Sharon answered the call back then and has been serving ever since.

“I just do what I can,” remarks Sharon, “and I believe in the mission and the work.” Since 1993 Sharon has been a grocery shopper, Seniors A Go Go Driver, and friendly visitor. But perhaps her most significant contribution is administrative support through the pandemic. Undeterred by the stay-at-home order, Sharon found a way to help from home. As ElderHelp converted to the Jot Form system and implemented SalesForce, Sharon was creating client profiles, updating notes and working tirelessly to keep our operation running smoothly. “We could not have done this without her,” remarks Care Coordination Manager, Elizabeth Wagner. “Sharon is like an invisible automated system. You think you need to do something, you open the file, and it’s already there. She just seems to know what we need before we need it.”

Sharon takes her commitment beyond volunteering. As a Legacy Partner and Premier Partner in Caring, Sharon commits to supporting seniors now and making sure they are supported in years to come. She typically declines being celebrated, but will always say yes to sharing her story if it helps advance the mission. Sharon, your story just keeps getting better and better. We salute you.

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Barbara J. Brown—A Legacy of Giving

“I’ve always wanted to help people,” shares Barbara J. Brown. “In 9th grade I wrote a play for 9th grade assembly and all the students had to bring canned goods for the starving children in China. The response was overwhelming, and I saw first-hand what generosity could do.”

After retiring from a career of service as a school nurse, Barbara began a new chapter as a full-time volunteer—serving more than 30 organizations. For her generosity and philanthropy, she was recognized at ElderHelp’s Essence of Life Awards in 1999.

“I believe in ElderHelp’s mission so much,” says Barbara. “I talk to friends about it, I talk to EVERYONE about it, and I see the impact you make every day. That’s why I’m so proud to support the work. As a senior myself I know how meaningful it is to live in my home. To help make that happen for someone else is the most satisfying thing in the world.”

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From client to cherished volunteer

In 1990 when Kerrie-Ann needed a place to land, she met 80-year old Josephine and ElderHelp. "She was like a surrogate grandmother to me, and ElderHelp's HomeShare program just clicked for us," shares Kerrie-Ann, "and I met my husband of 29 years when he was a guest at her dinner table!"

Fast forward to 2021 and Kerrie-Ann is celebrating 17 years of volunteer service--including five years as a board member. As a disabled US Navy veteran she's "always looking to support ElderHelp as I believe in its mission. My grandparents had to move late in life, and I saw first-hand how tough that was. It's an honor to give back to those who have given so much."

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Swapping stories and sharing smiles

After a year of separation, Gilbert and Judi are back together—swapping stories and smiles. Gilbert met our volunteer friendly visitor Judi on Valentine’s Day 2020, and they formed a fast friendship. “We just kept sharing more and more and discovered all kinds of things we have in common,” smiles Judi. “We both love history. He lived in Seattle, and I have family in Seattle. Sometimes I’m surprised at just how much we have to talk about.”

Of course those in-person visits came to an abrupt halt shortly after they met due to COVID restrictions. Undeterred, Judi immediately stepped in as Gilbert’s telephonic friendly visitor. “I like the way ElderHelp handled it. Right away we were asked to stay home, but right away we were given options on how to stay involved. I knew I had to stay in touch with Gilbert.”

Joining the Marines right after high school, Gilbert saw combat immediately. He still bears the scars of battlefield injuries. But at 93, Gilbert faced a different kind of hardship—loneliness. He lovingly cared for two wives who have since passed away. “That’s why having someone like Judi means the world to me. I just like to have someone to talk to--something to look forward to, and I look forward to talking to Judi.”

Throughout the pandemic, Judi did more than call. She’d occasionally send cards and even enlisted the help of her grandkids to create special notes while Gilbert was briefly hospitalized last Spring. “As a volunteer, I get as much if not more out of this than the clients.” Judi shares. She also makes check-in calls one day a week and enjoys brief weekly chats with about 30 other seniors. “But Wednesdays are reserved for Gilbert,” she adds. “I’m so glad we can see each other again. I love hearing the lift in his voice when we chat, and I know I’m making him feel better. Isn’t that what life is about? Making each other feel better?” Yes, Judi. We think so too.

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Like Having Another Family

“Home Sweet Home.” It’s where the jovial Jolene wants to be and the words she’s currently stitching on a gift for a friend. “I embroider pillow covers, towels, and all kinds of gifts for my friends,” Jolene shares. “It keeps me busy and makes people happy.”

Alone at the beginning of the pandemic, Jolene was struggling. Legally blind without family close by, she shares, “I don’t drive and had to take the bus to the doctor and grocery store. Then a friend told me about ElderHelp. Everyone is so nice and so kind, driving me around, bringing me groceries, and even a holiday gift. It’s like having another family.”

Jolene’s daughter has since moved closer. “Being so far away, I was worried constantly. Once my mom found ElderHelp, I slept better at night knowing she had someone to count on. You are what kept her going—not just the food and rides, but the company. Now that I’m here, I can see the difference you’re making. She smiles a lot, and the world just seems brighter.

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A Story Of Resilience And Gratitude

An avid reader with a fondness for white chocolate mocha frappuccinos, Joan misses library lectures and trips to the grocery store. But weekly deliveries from her ElderHelp grocery shopper stock her pantry and brighten her spirit. “I’ve been cooking a lot more than I used to” shares Joan, “and I’ve added flowers to my shopping list for Frank.  They brighten my tiny apartment and I enjoy snipping the ends and refreshing the water.  It gives me something to do.”

At 87, Joan has been an ElderHelp client for just over 5 years.  With a zest for learning, she’s always a “yes” when invited to ElderHelp’s gatherings.  “The Shakespeare lecture was one of my favorites,” she reflects, “but the Padres game was fun too!”  Joan’s life this past year has been dramatically different.  “I used to enjoy walking through the grocery store with my volunteer, choosing my own vegetables, and just seeing everyone there. Now, I’m pretty much stuckhere.”  But Joan has a positive outlook. It’s carried her through hard times before, and continues to shine through her bright blue eyes. She enjoys occasional visits from her landlord’s golden retriever and writing thank-you notes to those helping her stay safe. “You realize you can get through it—even if it’s not fun,” she shares. “All of you at ElderHelp are making that happen for me and for a lot of people.  I just can’t thank you enough.”

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30+ Years of Dedication

For over 30 years, the names Yale and Judy have been synonymous with ElderHelp. “I see the mission as an urgent need,” cites Judy. That’s why we stay so involved. “Seniors deserve to be able to stay in their homes, to be independent, and to stay safe. We see ElderHelp as a way to make that happen.”

Growing up as an only child, Judy was inspired by the older adults in her life. “I’ve always had a great appreciation for seniors. They offer a lot of wisdom and great perspective—something you don’t always have when you’re younger.”

Judy’s passion has been magnified through her work on behalf of local seniors through ElderHelp. Currently serving as Advisory Board Chair, her advocacy through 30+ years of volunteer service has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of San Diego seniors and their families. Honored as ElderHelp’s Ambassador of the Year in 2014, Judy continues to serve as a champion for older adults in our community.

Yale shares Judy’s passion and can’t wait to resume duty as a Seniors A Go Go Volunteer when it’s safe to do so. “It feels good to drive people where they need to go. It’s a chance to talk and a chance to learn something new. That’s important for all of us.”

On behalf of all who benefit and serve with you, we thank you, Yale & Judy!

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Sharing a Special Bond

“I really don’t do that much,” shares the very humble Kristin Schwall.  But in fact, her one hour a week at the grocery store makes a world of difference to Eloise and her husband, Ron.  Eloise is blind, and Ron has a chronic health condition, so going to the grocery store is a risk and challenge.

About a year ago, Kristin had some extra time on her hands.  “I’d just become an empty nester,” shares Kristin. “After attending the orientation, I liked the idea of grocery shopping. I’m going to the store for myself anyway.  Why not help someone else in the process?”  Kristin was matched with Eloise, and before COVID-19 they shopped together every other week.  “I marvel at her ability to pick the best veggies and having all of the product brands memorized,” smiles Kristin.  “Now with COVID guidelines, Eloise emails me her shopping list, and I shop for her.  She’s super tech savvy. I text her receipt total as I leave the store, and she tapes a check to rolling carts on her doorstep. I fill the carts with her groceries, and she brings them inside after I leave. It’s a great system.”

Kristin adds, “But it’s really lonely shopping without her.  The first time I called her from the store, I realized how much I really miss our conversations.  We’ve become friends.  I also realize how much being with her makes me feel better.  But for now, this is working, and it makes me feel good to know she has what she needs to stay safe in her home.

Photographer’s note:

Their bond is almost palpable.  Using our long-distance lens, we captured Kristin sharing a few special moments with Eloise.  She sees only Kristin’s shadow through the window, but they both have their cell phones out and enjoy catching up on their pets, their families, and their friendship.

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ElderHelp Delivers Hope

​“You just bring a bright sunshine to my heart,” shares Peter. “Things have been so hard through this pandemic, and I’m so worried about going out. And I don’t have to because of all the nutritious food ElderHelp delivers. I’m loving the frozen meals.” It’s important to Peter to eat healthy. He’s on a transplant list and wants to make sure he’s in the best possible shape when he is called. In fact, it was while chatting with a fellow dialysis patient that Peter learned about ElderHelp.

In mid-March, when our world changed forever, many stores offered senior shopping hours, but the most vulnerable were still at risk. ElderHelp quickly expanded its grocery shopping service to include safe doorstep delivery by vetted volunteers, converting office space into a food pantry. Now delivering over 1,500 pounds of food and supplies weekly, ElderHelp supports more than 900 seniors living independently in their own homes. In addition to pantry delivery, ElderHelp provides transportation to essential medical appointments, daily check-in calls, rent relief advocacy, and more. Onboarding over 120 new volunteers since March, ElderHelp wraps seniors in the arms of a caring community.

“I’m just so appreciative of all you do,” shares Peter. I felt like for a while no one cared. Now, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that I can be home and be healthy. My whole outlook has changed because I really see what’s good in people. I’m astounded by it, really. I can’t thank you enough.”

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My Home is Where I Want to Be

When Valerie moved to San Diego to be closer to her family, she hoped to find a new circle of friends. “But at 92, it’s not easy,” shares Valerie. “With the pandemic, it’s even harder.” But Valerie’s outlook is sunny thanks to ElderHelp. “With macular degeneration, I don’t drive any more, but ElderHelp has been a godsend—taking me for eye treatments and calling to check in. Your volunteers are all so considerate. It’s like they can’t do enough. My home is where I want to be. It’s a place I enjoy,” shares Valerie. “I feel safe here, and I don’t have to be on anyone else’s time clock. I don’t want to be treated special or differently just because I’m elderly. I just want to be treated cordially. Thanks to ElderHelp, I am.”

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Creating Cultural Connections

This cultural couple came to San Diego more than 10 years ago to be near their daughter, who is a professor at UCSD. Born, raised, and educated in India, they both exhibit the gentle demeanor of their country. As sophisticated citizens of the world, they led prosperous lives on multiple continents, and now they’ve made San Diego their home. Both in their 80’s, they’ve developed some physical frailties and have a bit of trouble getting around. In 2012, they learned of ElderHelp, and we’ve been making their lives easier ever since. Through Seniors A Go Go they get to their doctor’s appointments, singing the praises of the “unfailingly professional and caring service” from their volunteer drivers. They have a regular volunteer grocery shopper and occasionally call us for extra support. Last year they were faced with the daunting task of moving to a new apartment. ElderHelp’s volunteers stepped in to help with the heavy lifting to make sure they were comfortable and safe in their new place. With grateful smiles, they share that our volunteer tradition in this country is rare in the world, and ElderHelp volunteers are the best of the lot.

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Living Independently…with Dignity

Suzanne* called ElderHelp eight years ago needing rides to her grandson’s elementary school so she could volunteer. Our Seniors A Go Go drivers made sure she got to the school on time, and then she’d take the bus home. But everything changed when she slipped and fell last December. She injured her back and needed weekly physical therapy. “I wasn’t sure I could make it on my own anymore, so I started looking at nursing homes and even had a room picked out.” But thanks to the encouragement and reliable transportation from ElderHelp volunteer, Vivian, Suzanne’s outlook changed. “I started feeling better, and I could feel my self-esteem coming back. Vivian stayed through my appointments and was a listening ear on the way home.” Although Suzanne has family close by, she values her independence. “I love knowing I can take care of myself” she tells us. “Because of ElderHelp, I’m doing it!”

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Opening her home…and her heart

Jane has claimed San Diego as her home for almost all her life. But when you talk to her, you’ll hear some Tennessee, where she spent her entire childhood. Jane is a life scientist and a veterinarian. When Jane’s father died, she moved in with her mother to be a family caregiver, but balancing full-time work with full-time caregiving proved to be a daunting task. Discouraged with the quality of hired services, Jane came upon ElderHelp’s HomeShare program. With two extra bedrooms, Jane could exchange a comfortable room in her home for daily support for her mother. ElderHelp’s coordinators found the perfect roommates and executed service agreements for more than 10 years while her mother was alive. But it doesn’t end there. Not wanting to live alone after her mother passed away, Jane has continued the matching arrangement with ElderHelp. Because of her love of animals, she welcomes home seekers with pets. She’s had only one misgiving when a prospective renter asked about bringing not only her dog but also her snakes and frogs. Thanks to a sizable aquarium, the renter (and her menagerie) were welcomed!

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Little things Make a Difference

When Ginger* retired from her nursing career in the late 1990’s, she joined ElderHelp’s volunteer team.  She was matched with Gladys, and together they enjoyed trips around town, stopping at the grocery store or window shopping at the mall.  Ginger reflects, “I remember taking Gladys shoe shopping for her birthday.  She had received a little extra cash, and we were ready to celebrate.  We bought the shoes and a cake and stopped for a fast food hamburger.   It was a great day until it came time to cut the cake.  There is no way to cut a cake at a fast food restaurant!  It was pretty messy, but we managed. We sure did laugh about that, though.”

Fast forward to today and Ginger is now laughing with a volunteer match of her own.  “I don’t drive anymore,” reflects Ginger, “but transportation was always one of my biggest projects. Seniors like their independence and ElderHelp’s volunteers provide it. Last week after Rachel took me to church, we stopped on the way home for a bunch of bananas. It’s little things like that that make such a difference. I just appreciate that she takes the time to help. ElderHelp was there when I wanted to lend a hand, and now they’re here for me when I need one.”

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Paying It Forward

Anne and John have donated an aggregate 30 years of volunteer service to ElderHelp and were recently honored at Essence of Life with our Volunteer Spotlight Award. Anne was a librarian in Coronado when she saw an ad in the local newspaper for grocery shopping help needed for seniors. As a young adult who had left home, she watched her siblings care for their elderly mom, and in these later years she feels volunteering at ElderHelp is a symbolic way to take her turn in caring for seniors.

Watching Anne in action, and recalling his mother’s volunteer work, John knew he’d like to help too. So he started making RUOK calls to our clients one morning each week. That was fulfilling, but he found his real calling when he started helping with home repairs and garden maintenance. As years went by, John realized that there were hazards in some of the residences he visited. So he created a home safety inspection list and started making home modifications to reduce the risk falls in the home. He’s gone on to train a handy group of volunteers whose skillful dedication results in ElderHelp clients having a 10% lower incidence of falls than the average San Diego senior.

Recently, Anne has found her niche by driving seniors to doctor’s appointments and social engagements. She delights in conversation and the friendships made along the way.
And this dedicated couple has no intention of slowing down. They know they make a difference to this special population and to ElderHelp with the idea that paying it forward is just the right idea for all of us.

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*Client names and images are changed to protect their privacy.

“Elder Help has helped me so much in last two years. They are invaluable to seniors. And great people in their office.”

Rosemary, ElderHelp Member

“Elder Help has helped me so much this year and last. They are a wonderful organization with wonderful staff and volunteers.”


ElderHelp Member


5095 Murphy Canyon Rd, #100
San Diego, CA  92123