In 2004, Cambridge resident Marge Olson called Family Pathways in search of someone who could drive her to see her son Paul Bohara in Lindstrom.
That’s how she met Jackie and Jerry Cronquist. It’s been 10 years since they were first paired through Family Pathways Companionship Program, which matches seniors with volunteers based on their needs.
Olson heard about the program from a friend. She needed a ride to visit her son who lives in a group home.
“You don’t want me to drive,” Olson said in between laughs. “I ran into a church and my son told me, ‘Grandma, that’s not a drive-thru church.’ That was it.”
The Cronquists had been volunteering for a number of years before they met Olson.
Since their first meeting, the three of them have become very close.
“They become family, they get that close,” Jerry said of Olson and his other companions he’s helped.
The three have them have celebrated Bohara’s birthday for several years. Olson buys the cake, and the four of them go out to eat.
Bohara, 49, has even taken Jerry to see where he works at the Chisago Lakes Achievement Center in Chisago City. They also help Olson with trips to the grocery store and rides to the mall.
The three will continue their trips to see Bohara and grocery visits after Olson moves in with her daughter, Sandy Sutcliffe, May 1.
It’s very rare that volunteers and companions stay together this long, said Family Pathways Senior Services Coordinator Collette Colucci.
She recently implemented an on-call companion program, where she matches seniors with volunteers for a short-term basis. She currently has 37 volunteers serving 67 clients. That’s mostly been for seniors in the winter who didn’t want to drive in the snow.
“It’s not handy taking the bus to get groceries,” Colucci said. “Bus drivers can’t help carry the groceries.” With the program, the volunteers take companions to the store and help them load and unload their items. Some even help put things away.
The biggest need Colucci is trying to fill are rides to doctor’s appointments, to fill prescriptions and grocery store visits. The Companionship Program started in 1991. It’s one of the many services Pathways offers to seniors and caregivers to make life easier.
For more information on the Companionship Program, call Colucci at 763-552-7284.