Winter 2018
Securing her neighborhood's future
Your support keeps elders like Virginia a vibrant part of our community.
From a young age, Virginia had an interest in neighborhood crime prevention. “My grandfather asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said either a doctor, writer or detective.” Those interests all came into play throughout her life, but keeping her neighborhood safe is how Virginia most fervently relates to the world around her.

As a bit of background, Virginia has been physically attacked eight times over the course of her 82 years, including a short-lived kidnapping. “I was working at a hamburger stand on Franklin Avenue in the early ‘70s. Robbers broke in and held me at gunpoint,” she said. “But I heard my mother’s voice in my head say, 'Run,' and that’s what I did!”

She has been involved in crime prevention for many years, beginning when she lived in the Seward neighborhood and now closer to her home near Loring Park, where she participates in the Green Dot program at Metropolitan Community & Technical College. “Green Dot is a grassroots program that promotes using words or actions to diffuse violence, making the community safer,” Virginia said. “It helps me get the fear out of my system. We can’t allow fear to control us.”

From her apartment, Virginia has written to politicians, seeking support of better crime prevention. She proudly preserves the letters in response from Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. “I was in contact with a couple of candidates for Minneapolis mayor, too,” she said.

Virginia’s desire to stay involved in her community is challenged by physical issues and loneliness, but she continues to seek treatment through a combination of traditional and alternative medicines. A 13-year cancer survivor, she recently found improved mobility after chiropractic sessions. Still, it’s difficult for her to get around as she finds her sense of isolation increasing.

Although Virginia first joined Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly in 2003, her relationship with LBFE is evolving with her needs, helping her to stay engaged in community and living independently. When she doesn't feel up to attending holiday meals, volunteers deliver the turkey dinner to her door. She has been meeting regularly with her Visiting Volunteer, Mary Miller, since 2013. “Mary has made a real difference in my life,” she said. “I was so nervous before my eye surgery and Mary helped me through that.”
She then added, “Little Brothers has rescued me on many a winter day.”

LBFE is committed to ensuring Virginia gets the support she needs in order to live independently. “Virginia is a wonderful asset to her neighborhood,” said Sandy O’Donnell, LBFE Elder Advocacy Director. “We believe that, by LBFE being there for Virginia, she will continue to be there for her community.”

They have wisdom, personality ... and a lot of love to share!

If you know of an older adult who would like to join LBFE, please consider referral. We offer no-cost companionship services to elders age 65+ who are isolated, lack family nearby and want more community connection.

Community initiatives can rein in the costs of elder isolation
by James Falvey, Executive Director
In November, the AARP Public Policy Institute released a study that quantifies some of the significant costs of social isolation among older adults. The study, “Medicare Spends More on Socially Isolated Older Adults,” found that the effects of isolation on older adults cost the government an additional $6.7 billion each year.

We already knew that the negative effects of social isolation have been equated to those of obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes per day, but this new information shows us just how expensive this problem is for the nation’s taxpayers.

While the World Health Organization has long held that social determinants of health, including the social connections we have with family and friends, are far more important our health than interventions of the healthcare sector, our society has been slow to direct resources into proactive wellness initiatives.

The findings of AARP’s study provides new incentive to tackle this complex problem.

The good news is that there is a simple, low-cost solution that has been hiding in plain sight: community-based activities that bring companionship into the lives of otherwise isolated older adults.

As part of our current Strategic Plan, LBFE has transitioned delivery of elder companionship services to a grassroots model through community volunteers. One other nonprofit organization, Vital Aging Network (VAN), provides another innovative example. Its Wellness 50+ pilot program fosters grassroots projects led by self-directed teams of people who are 50 years of age and older. These projects enable older adults to make measurable changes in attitudes and practices that contribute to better health outcomes while at the same time warding off isolation and its negative effects. For instance, a group of 30 older adults from the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis gathers each Tuesday for healthy activities such as group walks and Tai Chi, in addition to companionship and support.
When community members work together to provide a proactive solution, we reduce the negative health effects that trigger higher-cost health interventions. Better still, these community-based actions create more livable communities and happier, more healthy individuals in the process. 
Thanksgiving volunteers with red aprons
Volunteering benefits our community --
and you!

We often say that volunteers are the heart and hands of Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly. Our volunteers are kindhearted people who want to make a difference in our community. In fact, last year 618 volunteers – including 261 first-time volunteers – selflessly provided a total of 9,983 hours of service in various LBFE programs and projects.
There are countless benefits to volunteering and you may be familiar with many of them: Volunteering provides a greater sense of purpose and well-being; reduces stress; keeps us active and physically healthier overall; and can even improve one’s job prospects.

Did you realize, though, that by volunteering, you’re also reducing the potential for isolation and loneliness in yourself?
Isolation is an insidious condition that can sneak up on us as our social lives evolve. Students moving out-of-state to a new school lose family connections and a feeling of belonging. Empty nesters often don’t replace friendships they had formed with other parents through PTA meetings or their children’s sports teams. And retirees who initially feel liberated from the daily “rat race” often miss interacting with coworkers.
Preventing our own loneliness and isolation takes a conscious effort to reach out to others, and volunteering is an excellent solution. You connect and form relationships not only with the people you serve, but also with staff and other volunteers. And the rewards are tenfold. To be sure, our volunteers tell us time and again that they believe they benefit from the experience even more than the elders they serve.
Please consider sharing your time and talent to advance LBFE's mission:

  • Video production
  • Fundraiser or elder event coordination
  • Social media content
  • Community organizing
  • Elder visiting and phone companionship
  • Lawn mowing and weeding at LBFE office
  • Light building maintenance projects at LBFE office

To donate your services, email or call 612.721.1400.
Thrivent Financial
Stoking a passion for elders
Christine Thompson (right), with her Employee Volunteer Team, has sponsored elder events for LBFE since 2011.
“I have nothing against children,” Christine Thompson said with a laugh, “but they seem to be getting a lot of the attention when it comes to volunteer projects.”

It’s just one reason she supports Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly and its mission of alleviating isolation and loneliness among older adults.

“I saw how many elders have no social outlet or go out only once a month,” she said. “And it pulled at my heartstrings. Few programs address this problem, so I decided that’s where I wanted to assign my energy.”

Christine has worked at Thrivent Financial for 27 years, currently in its Finance Division. She has been spearheading an Employee Volunteer Team dedicated to LBFE since 2011. It consists of up to 15 coworkers who coordinate about two elder events each year.
Among other things, these events have included birthday parties; lunches; a Johnny Cash impersonator day; a Cards, Crafts and Coffee group; and a Friendship and Flowers day project for the homebound. Most recently, her group hosted a Bingo and Pizza party, which attracted 23 elders spending time together yelling out " bingo," winning prizes and feasting on pizza.

“The reward,” she explained, “is hearing an elder’s excitement when I call and invite them to an event. And then on the drive home that person telling me they hadn’t had this much fun in years. We were able to make them happy with such a small effort on our part.”

Thrivent champions volunteer activity and helps any employee “powered by a passion” to form a team dedicated to the cause they care about. Christine’s passion was focused on the welfare of the elderly. Getting coworkers to care as much as she did was easy.
“I talked about the loneliness, which leads to health problems, inability to form healthy relationships and community connections, the potential for physical, emotional and financial abuse, the self-neglect, and the lack of resources addressing that problem. Employees saw the need and wanted to get involved.”
In fact, when they met recently to evaluate their efforts and determine whether or not to continue, their vote was a unanimous yes . What’s more, they wanted to “go even deeper,” Christine said.

“So for the first time, we decided to pair up with an elder, pick them up for an event and drive them back home. We were concerned about getting enough drivers, but we had more than enough.

“As my parents age,” she said, “I see how their social contacts diminish and friendships fade. My goal is to make sure the elders in our community stay healthy and involved.”  

Kathleen Lindstrom, contributing editor
At LBFE, we like to think of our supporters as a family. Each member is unique, caring and essential as we strive together to end elder isolation and loneliness in the Twin Cities. There are a number of ways you can join LBFE as a supporter depending on your giving capacity and personal financial goals. 
As a Friend, you support LBFE in the amount that best fits your budget. You receive quarterly newsletters with impact stories and invitations to special events. New in 2018, you’ll receive your annual Friend Card, signifying your commitment to LBFE’s mission of relieving elder isolation and loneliness. 
As a monthly Sustainer, you receive an annual premium item and quarterly special impact reports with exclusive content, in addition to quarterly newsletters, invitations to special events, and your annual Friend Card.
As a member of the Leaders Circle, your outstanding support of $500 or more per year enables you to receive an exclusive invitation to LBFE’s Annual Appreciation Dinner, VIP experiences at events, and quarterly impact reports in addition to the benefits at the Friend level.
As a planned-gift supporter, your commitment helps ensure LBFE’s mission is sustained for years to come. You receive an exclusive invitation to LBFE’s Annual Legacy Society Event and special ongoing recognition in annual reports.
To learn more about giving options, visit our website or contact Ceallaigh Anderson Smart at or 612.746.0737.
LBFE branches out into the Big Apple
Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly is extending its imprint on the U.S. with an expansion site in New York City. The new office opened in November 2016 with a holiday event and now has more than 100 volunteers participating in various programs for isolated elders in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s upper west side.

As with other chapters, it took one person’s dedication and commitment to the LBFE mission to bring it to life. On International Day of Older Persons four years ago, Jerome Michaux, a resident of New York City and a native of France, learned that Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly has several chapters in the U.S. He had an affinity for older persons and began entertaining ideas of starting up a site to serve the elders of New York City. Since that time, Jerome has worked closely with the International Federation’s home base in Paris and the U.S. chapters for guidance and assistance.

Currently, the expansion site serves about 30 elders monthly through its Friendship and Flowers program and provides food assistance once a month for elders who are homebound. “We were able to secure a partnership with a food pantry to provide dry goods,” Jerome said. “The food is delivered by two volunteers who also check to see if the elders have any additional needs.” The site also delivers about 50 gift baskets on Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. “These are the times when elders feel loneliest,” Jerome added.

Jerome is anxious to develop a more robust friendly visiting program and train volunteers to help with elder assessments. “Right now I have four volunteers who each visit one elder on a regular basis,” he said. He is also working toward building a board of directors, securing 501(c)(3) status, and launching a pilot program in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Remembering our friends

The following Elder Friends were remembered at our November memorial service. We encourage anyone whose life has been touched by an elder to attend our memorial services. Feel free to bring any photos or memories to share. Please check our online event calendar for our next scheduled memorial service and contact Sandy O’Donnell if you would like to attend.
John Bailey
Theresa Fendrick
Connie Koelfgen
William McDermott
Donna Neubauer
Marlys Reinitz
Grace Schwan
Farokn Tami
Lucille Tschida
Rogean Young
Let's Do Lunch Caf é
Our monthly Let's Do Lunch Café featured thought-provoking presentations. In October, Catherine Engstrom and Lisa Albrecht from Wilder Foundation's LGBTQ Caregiver Support Group discussed the unique concerns that LGBTQ caregivers face. In December, Minn. State Sen. John Marty discussed his proposed Minnesota Health Plan, a single-payer plan. 
Thanksgiving Dinner

Once again this year, our elegant Thanksgiving dinner served up good times and friendship. Volunteers and their families ensured that more than 100 elders received the traditional turkey dinner and all the trimmings with respect, dignity and love! Elders had the option to attend the dinner at the Envision Event Center or a dinner delivered to their home, along with flowers and a friendly visit. Find more holiday photos on our Facebook page.
Cards, Crafts & Coffee
Elder friends and volunteers gather each fourth Thursday to play cards, bingo or word finds and feast on Cheryl Kostecki’s homemade cookies. Sometimes an unexpected guest drops in, too!
Community Room Facelift
Eagle Scout Sai Bajjuri summoned his Lake Minnetonka troop to join him in painting LBFE's community room. The freshly painted room is now a more enjoyable spot for hosting events for our elders friends. Thank you, Eagle Scouts!
1845 East Lake Street 
Minneapolis, MN 55407 
Phone: 612.721.1400 
Fax: 612.721.5848