By Kelly Kass, Senior Writer, Marketing Works
Ninety-three-year-old Peter L. is no stranger to the importance of giving back. The World War II Veteran and Purple Heart recipient proudly served his country in the South Pacific, until he was wounded by a bullet that remained lodged inside his shoulder for a decade.
Years later, others now are giving back to Peter. Three times a week, the South Hempstead resident is visited by George J. Ruggeri, a volunteer with Family & Children’s Association’s (FCA’s) Friendly Visiting Program, which strives to enhance the lives of Long Island homebound seniors through companionship and social interaction.
“I get treated like a king,” Peter says. “Instead of just sitting around and thinking all day, I can have a conversation with someone. This program really lifts me up.”
During their one-hour visits, Peter and George usually enjoy a game of cards or watching game shows. Peter has preferred a “simple way of living” ever since the passing of his wife of 67 years, Madeline, in 2015. Their two children and three grandchildren reside in Suffolk County.
Support from his family and the Friendly Visiting Program enable Peter to fulfill his wish of remaining in his lifelong home. The familiar surroundings “keep you alive,” he says.
Increased socialization also plays a major role in boosting a senior’s quality of life. “Without social interaction, a senior can feel more lonely and isolated, which can lead to poor health and feelings of depression,” explains Jessica DiCarlo, FCA Friendly Visiting Coordinator. “Our trained volunteers are thoroughly vetted with the same goal: to keep people company and bring a smile to their face.”
When George visits, Peter is “overjoyed,” especially when George brings snacks and treats. “It’s rewarding being able to make a person feel better,” George explains. In the six months he has been visiting Peter, George has achieved a greater sense of purpose. “The communication I have with Peter, talking about life stories, is very meaningful to me,” he says.