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NESTNEST: Creating an environment of trust 
Gretchen with NEST elder
Gretchen Vanderlinden-Wang welcomes a NEST elder to the monthly lunch.
When Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly launched Neighbors Embracing Seniors Together (NEST) in July 2010, we were excited, hopeful ... and a little timid.
"We were stepping into an entirely new model of serving elders," said Gretchen Vanderlinden-Wang, Friends of the Elderly Program Coordinator. While the core of NEST was our signature services, such as Visiting Volunteers, Friendship and Flowers, and social activities, the intention from the beginning was to build an aging-in-place community "where there's connectedness, caring and trust among elders, neighbors, service providers and businesses," said Gretchen.
Gretchen was instrumental in bringing NEST to life in the eastside neighborhoods of St. Paul. "The first step was to build collaborations with other community agencies and businesses," she said. "That took a lot of one-on-one meetings and persistence, but by December of 2011 the Eastside Senior Collaborative was launched with eight partners committed to working together on the behalf of elders."
The Collaborative has since grown to include 17 alliances. One especially important partnership is with Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, which provides an office at no charge for Gretchen to use two days a week. "By being right in the neighborhood, I'm able to gain the trust of elders who are otherwise too fearful to venture out or accept services from outside providers," she said. That trust helped draw 82 elders who now receive a variety of companionship services and attend social events.
Bolstered by the success of NEST on St. Paul's east side, Friends of the Elderly is making plans to replicate the model in a Minneapolis neighborhood. "We've developed sound best practices so we're able to hit the ground running," said Greg Voss, Executive Director. "First and foremost is building collaborations with other senior service providers. We've already made significant inroads in this regard in the Northeast Minneapolis area."
There are a number of other factors to be considered in selecting which neighborhood would benefit most from NEST. "We're looking at communities that lack senior services; are ethnically diverse, which tends to increase elder isolation; and have a large population under the poverty level when compared with other neighborhoods," Greg said. "Fortunately, we have excellent studies by Wilder Research that will aid us in our decision."
The St. Paul NEST pilot was made possible through corporate and community grants. "We're excited to partner with funders who will want to bring this winning model of neighbor helping neighbor into a Minneapolis community," Greg said.

From the Executive Director

Growing toward our vision

Greg Voss_email

Greg Voss, Executive Director


Growth, fun and excitement are in the air at Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly! Keeping pace with our strategic goals, we're moving forward with new or enhanced program initiatives for our cherished elders. And with that brings a wide variety of ways that individuals of all ages can support our efforts:

NEST (Neighbors Embracing Seniors Together) -- Based on a neighborhood model of connecting isolated elders to neighbors through strong local collaborations, NEST has experienced much success in the eastside neighborhoods of St. Paul. We are committed to replicating this program model in Minneapolis beginning in the next fiscal year, providing ample new opportunities for volunteering and community partnerships (see above article).

Family Companions -- This family volunteer program offers households an opportunity to volunteer together. Families are matched with elders for monthly activities and then the fun begins! Invite an elder into your home for a special meal or go on an outing for a family-centered experience.

Bridging Generations -- We are expanding our efforts to bridge youth with elders through intergenerational programs. These programs offer school and/or youth groups opportunities to make meaningful connections with our elders (see article below). Intergenerational programs are also perfect opportunities for corporate and service groups. Activities and events can be customized to meet the needs of your group.

These are just a sampling of what's ahead. Our staff team works diligently every day to expand and enhance all of our programs and activities designed to bring smiles and joy to the faces of the elders we serve. With the support of our strong and dedicated volunteers, we will certainly realize our program goals now and well into the future.

It is a great time to be associated with Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly! We are humbled and honored to maintain the tremendous support of our many community partners, donors and volunteers. We are inspired and motivated by your support; rest assured we carry this inspiration with us every day in service to our elders.

Greg Voss
Executive Director

bridginggenerationsPartnership with The Blake School bridges generations


Nan Peterson
Nan Peterson, Blake's Director of Service Learning

Enthusiasm, teamwork and dedication to social justice -- that's the spirit that envelopes you as you walk the halls and greet the faculty, staff and students of The Blake School. And, according to Nan Peterson, Director of Service Learning in Blake's Office of Equity and Community Engagement, service to the community begins from the moment a student first walks in the door.

"We emphasize with students beginning in pre-kindergarten and up through high school the importance of giving of your time, talent and treasure to the community," Nan said. This is evident in the numerous activities that Blake School sponsors for Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly.


The Blake School has partnered with LBFE for the past three years by sponsoring birthday luncheons for our elder friends. Na

Blake students and elders
Blake students Sita Dandiker and Sarah Roe (second and third from left) helped plan the Chinese-themed lunch.

n believes the luncheons have benefited the students in a number of ways.

"The students are learning about aging-related issues; that aging is not scary, and that older persons can't be stereotyped -- each elder is unique," Nan said. "They've learned, too, about intergenerational friendships, and how, as with other diverse relationships, it's important to build rapport until the other is no longer an 'other.'"

The students plan the luncheons themselves, completing an event form, planning the menu, designating greeters and elder companions, and selecting the entertainment. They have fun building the event around a topic, too. "At a recent lunch, the topic of diversity came up and one of the elders said she wanted to learn more about China," Nan explained. That started the wheels turning and so the February luncheon included Asian food, paper cut-outs and a lesson in Mandarin.

"The elders gain so much from the lunches with Blake School," said Josh Windham, LBFE Program Coordinator. "They enjoy being with young people because they generally don't have family and friends. The energy that the students give off is infectious! Even the elders who are normally reserved come out of their shells." A bonus is that the elders, who often have limited resources, are served a nice meal. "Best of all, the elders leave with a renewed hope for the future generation," Josh added.

We're grateful for the friendship The Blake School has extended to our elders, and for its role in envisioning an end to elder isolation with its socially inclusive values.

Be their link to community -- refer an elder


Jerry had just pulled out of his garage and was driving down the street when he saw Marla's house. He hadn't seen the 80-year-old widow since early fall and wondered how she was doing. He considered stopping for a moment to check in on her, but continued on instead.


Photo courtesy Sue Kyllenon

Sound familiar? Many of us have seen

an elder all alone -- at the grocery store, the bank or even our place of worship -- and felt a nudge to reach out. Or, like Jerry, we haven't seen an elder who otherwise might be around and wonder if they're okay.

In every neighborhood, there are elders who are isolated and lonely. Loneliness often goes hand-in-hand with feelings of sadness and lack of purpose, and can lead to self-neglect. And there is mounting evidence that loneliness significantly increases health risks such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.* While staying connected socially is critical to warding off these risks, forming new connections can be daunting to an elder.

For this reason, it's important for others to reach out to the isolated. "We encourage people to check in on elderly neighbors -- go knock on their door and see if they're okay," said Sandy O'Donnell, LBFE Program Coordinator. "If an elder says that they're lonely, you can refer us by giving them our phone number."

When LBFE receives a referral, a Program Coordinator will contact the elder and make an appointment to professionally access them. "If they identify themselves as lonely and isolated, we want to help them," Sandy said. "We ask if they have social connections -- family members in town, social activities available in their high rise or a nearby senior center that they go to." We may also administer the UCLA Loneliness Scale to better evaluate their level of isolation.

Once an elder begins receiving our services, they often express their gratitude that a neighbor or agency referred them. Recently, our friend Virginia wrote, "LBFE enhances my life. I easily could be classified as an 'isolated senior' without your programs. Thank you!"

If you would like to refer an elder for companionship services, please contact Sandy O'Donnell at or 612.746.0726,


* Source: PLoS Medicine, "Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review," Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith, Brigham Young University, 2010



Generous donors fulfill elders' wish lists


Many individuals, families, corporations and community groups donated holiday gifts this year for the elders in our programs. To help make sure the gifts would answer our elders' needs, we asked them to give us their holiday wish lists and passed these wishes on to some of the donors. We were literally deluged with gifts! The presents were distributed throughout December by volunteers and staff.

Friendship and Flowers volunteer Dan Krueger delivered gifts to two elders at different homes along his route. "When I asked Liz and Henry if they needed help unwrapping the gifts, both responded that they wanted to save their gift and open it at Christmas," Dan said. Henry asked Dan to place the package beside his humble 18-inch tree, and Liz wanted her present displayed in the center of her table surrounded by her Christmas figurines. "In both cases, the only presents they
received were from Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly," Dan said.

Elder friend Rita expressed her appreciation in a note: "Thank you for the nice Christmas presents. I really liked them -- those are the only ones I got for Christmas." Brenda, too, sent her thanks: "Imagine my delight when an angel came to my apartment with a whole box of gifts. I had a black purse on my wish
list and that is exactly what I got, along with sheets and a lap blanket ... it made my Christmas so nice."

Many thanks to all the generous gift donors who brought joy
into so many hearts!

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NEST: Creating an environment of trust
From the Executive Director
Partnership with Blake School bridges generations
How to refer an elder
Generous donors fulfill elder wish lists
Activities calendar
Farnam Street Financial Sponsors Christmas Tea
The benefits of monthly giving
In memory
Elder referral sources


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Become a vibrant part of Friends of the Elderly! Check out volunteer and sponsorship opportunities for March and April.
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Easter dinner driver/companion or meal deliverer for an elder?

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Support LBFE's mission of providing companionship to isolated seniors in the Twin Cities






Farnam Street Financial employees donned aprons and served a lasagna lunch to elders, volunteers and staff at the December 11th Christmas Tea and Birthday Party. Farnam also arranged for Mound Westonka High School choir members to sing carols while cake was served and gifts were distributed.  




We appreciate the generosity of faithful supporters like you who enable Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly to bring care and friendship to isolated Twin Cities elders. Many of our donors choose to show their support on a regular, ongoing basis. Our monthly gift program makes giving an easy and effortless activity.

By joining the monthly gift program, you allow LBFE to charge your credit card each month or automatically withdraw the donation from your bank account. The benefits:

  1. More convenient.
  2. Saves on postage.
  3. Provides documentation.
  4. Spreads out your giving. 
  5. Enables LBFE to budget for expenses throughout the year.

To set up your account, click here, or contact Danielle Fehring at 612.746.0726 or




 The following people we served were remembered at our recent memorial services:


Bernice Eastep
Gene Holtmeyer
William Roop 
Delbert Stubstad
Ellen Tiede
Darla Walker


Our next memorial service is Monday, April 15, 2013 from 4-5 p.m. at 1845 East Lake Street in Minneapolis. 

We encourage anyone whose life has been touched by an elder we served to attend our memorial service. Please contact Josh Windham at 612.746.0746 or if you would like to attend. Open to all. 





The Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter of Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly regularly receives referrals from a number of sources, including:

-- Home healthcare agencies

-- Hospitals

-- Clinics and doctor's offices

-- Meals on Wheels and senior services agencies

-- Librarians

-- Out-of-state or incapacitated family members

-- Senior centers and adult day services

-- Postal carriers

-- Other program participants

-- LBFE volunteers

-- Concerned neighbors - like you!  

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