By Tim Harfmann
Linda Kadluboski Lacoma volunteers once a week, visiting 87-year-old Ellen Ferguson and her husband, Julio Rivera, at their Jamaica, Queens home. For a few hours, Linda checks on their well-being. “It lifts me up,” said Ferguson.
The interaction is thanks to the “Friendly Visiting Program” — a new initiative by Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens that’s sponsored by the city’s Department of the Aging. Stephanie Mitchell, coordinator of the program, said the goal is to be there for homebound residents; “It has been scientifically proven that isolation causes a lot of diseases. It causes depression. Isolation can even cause death.”
Retired from law enforcement, Linda saw an ad in her church bulletin. Having an elderly mother herself, Linda wanted to volunteer. “I feel good when I come because I feel like I’m doing something good for her; and she also makes me feel good when I’m here, too.”
And she’s putting her Catholic faith into action. “That’s been part of our life growing up, just giving back to the community, giving back to others, helping people when you can,” said Linda.
Ellen, a retired nurse, is a mother of eight children. She’s also a grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. She said sometimes it’s hard for her family to visit. “They may not be able to make it. But if Linda says, ‘I’ll be at 11,’ I can almost look for her at 11 because she will be here by 11,” said Ellen.
The two talk about everything from Ellen’s extensive doll collection to baking. On May 29, the two looked at the photo album Ellen is putting together. Linda brought fabric from home for the cover.
“I can feel the warmth. I can feel the love. That’s why I feel that this program is a very good program if people can’t really get out,” said Ellen on how grateful she is to Catholic Charities for the new program.
And she looks forward to her weekly visits with Linda; “It’s like some kids looking for Santa Claus to come!”
Catholic Charities needs volunteers in Southwest Queens — made up of neighborhoods including Jamaica, Hollis, Saint Albans, Woodhaven, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park, and Howard Beach. If you would like to be a volunteer, you can go online to the Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens website, www.ccbq.org. Potential participants must be at least 18 years old and clear a background check and an interview.