When Hallie Vae Wallace, a Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ (SFBFS) Senior program volunteer, went down the list of interests of her newly assigned senior companion, she began to worry that they would not have anything in common.
“She likes the Home Shopping Network which I cannot say that I do,” Hallie said, “Yet when I called her that first time there was an instant connection. I told her I had a feeling we were going to be real good friends.”
Since that first phone call, Hallie and Evelyn, as predicted by Hallie, have become fast friends. Through long phone calls and afternoon lunches both ladies have discovered that despite their immediate differences there are very core principles that they do share when it comes to work and family. Through their time together Hallie and Evelyn have learned many things about each other’s lives including that Evelyn is a retired UC Davis Emergency unit nurse with a funny bone and that Hallie is a long time elementary school teacher with a love for children and seniors.
SFBFS’ Senior program Manager, Marie-Louise Nelson, explains that for Senior program volunteers it is all about finding that meaningful connection with a senior. “There needs to be a willingness to form a relationship and it takes bravery to be open and loving,” Marie-Louise said, “Hallie is sensitive and caring and has an affinity for older people. She enjoys just hanging out with Evelyn.”
Hallie’s care and concern for Evelyn’s well being is evident through her thoughtful actions. So when Evelyn said that she liked dogs, Hallie brought her new rescue puppy to visit. And, when a close family member of Evelyn’s died, Hallie was by her side.
After her earlier experiences caring for her 91 year old father-in-law and working with a senior volunteer in her classroom, Hallie has found that she is attracted to the histories and experiences of older generations. “I like older people. Once they hit 80 they become really interesting to me,” Hallie said, “They’ve all lived such great lives and so few people are interested and it doesn’t make sense to me.”
With Evelyn, Hallie explains that the majority of the time is spent just listening to stories of Evelyn’s childhood and family to tales of her time as an emergency room nurse. But Hallie and Evelyn’s connection deepened when Hallie learned that one of her closest students in an after school club is Evelyn’s great granddaughter. “It’s like all these strings are pulling us together and we didn’t even realize it,” Hallie said, “I’ll never forget Monday morning when [Evelyn’s great granddaughter] comes running up to me and says, ‘You’re my great grandma’s friend!” For Hallie, finding these connections with Evelyn has not only strengthened their relationship but has also affirmed for Hallie her passion for seniors and volunteering.
For Evelyn, the relationship with Hallie has evolved into more than just a trusting friendship but has also given Evelyn something more. “Hallie is so beautiful, alive, and so open,” Evelyn said, “She is like a sister to me.”