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Staying independent --
with a little help from friends

Most of us automatically have a support system ready as we age, whether it's a caring family or a healthy financial nest egg, or both. But for those who don't, Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly is there, helping elders who live alone and lack family and resources maintain their independence.


LBFE befriends and advocates for isolated elders, but our goal is not to make them dependent on others. Rather, we help them find that healthy balance between connection to community and the ability to remain on their own.


Teaching self-sufficiency


For 42 years, LBFE has been providing isolated elders with companionship, social events and advocacy services. In 2014, we are also offering assessments and education so elders have the skills to live more successfully on their own. "This year, we're excited to pilot our Path to Better Living program," said Sandy O'Donnell, LBFE Program Services Director. "The program teaches elders various communication and life skills, like financial safety and nutrition, in a group setting. We then help them set individual goals and track their progress through one-on-one follow-up."


In addition, LBFE's new Senior Assessment for Independent Living (SAIL) initiative, funded in part by the Medica Foundation, works with isolated elders over the course of six months to assess their nutritional habits and home safety. "For example, our staff and volunteers will check to see if an elder's pantry is poorly stocked, which could lead to poor nutrition, or if their home is dimly lit, which could cause falls," said Sandy. LBFE then works with the elder to follow safety and nutritional measures that will decrease their risks, and make referrals as needed.


Our community benefits, too


Greater independence is not only good for the elder, it also benefits our community. An average nursing home stay costs $198 a day* and is generally covered by Medicaid for those unable to pay. By comparison, our services are free to elder participants, with the cost of just over $4 a day per elder supported by our generous donors. Thanks to you, our elders will continue to receive friendship, community connections, education and referrals that enable them to age in place and enjoy a greater sense of well-being.


*Minnesota costs for semi-private room, Genworth 2013 Cost of Care Survey, Genworth Financial.


From the Executive Director

Programs that transform an elder's life

Greg Voss_email

Greg Voss,

Executive Director


The past six months has been a time for LBFE staff and volunteers to further deepen our commitment to our elders. We are proud of the events and programs we've been offering our elders. The dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas once again drew over 200 of our elders, and engaged hundreds of volunteers, with over half as new recruits. Our Visiting Volunteers continue to brighten the lives of elders in their homes, and event participation by individuals, as well as corporate and community groups, is at an all-time high. In addition, Friendship and Flowers is as popular as ever with our volunteers making visits to nearly 200 homebound elders each month, bringing joy, happiness - and often kids and dogs - along with them.


Although extremely proud of these long-established programs, we are sensitive to the critical need in our neighborhoods to serve our mission of alleviating loneliness and isolation in ways that have a lasting effect. Two new programs are designed to provide our elders with life skills that will help them live more independently. Our Path to Better Living program addresses basic skills that involve communication, self-esteem, financial safety, and nutrition to help offset the risks of isolation. And through SAIL (Senior Assessments for Independent Living), LBFE staff and volunteers conduct assessments focusing on nutrition and home safety for 15 at-risk elder clients. We'll then follow up with lifestyle coaching and referrals to better enable elders to remain independent in their homes. (See more about these programs on page 1.)


Other programs, such as a recent balance improvement and fall prevention workshop, presented by the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging, and last month's Elder Isolation in the LGBT Community forum -- a collaboration with Prime Timers MSP that was sponsored by PFund -- assure vulnerable elders that, although they may live alone, they can still thrive through the encouragement and support of a caring community. 


2013 Annual Report


Click here to view our recently published financial reports and program statistics for fiscal year 2013.We're proud that we ended our fiscal year with a balanced budget, while still increasing the number of elders in our advocacy program. Note, too, that we were able to save on program costs because of our incredible volunteers. Their commitment of 7,100 hours in service to our elders is valued at $157,194, according to the Independent Sector.


As always, I extend my gratitude to all of our supporters. We continue to make a huge impact in the lives of the elders we serve, and could not do so without you.

Greg Voss
Executive Director

This friendship was in the cards 


Visiting Volunteer Jim Anathan listens appreciatively as elder friend John Bailey plays a tune by heart.

When poker buddies Jim Anathan and John Bailey get together, the friendly banter immediately starts flying.


"John doesn't bluff enough. He's got too honest a face."


"I try to bluff, but I just can't go through with it."


John, 72, and Jim, 62, are part of a Saturday morning poker group at John's St. Paul high-rise, known as the Saturday Morning Liar's Club. John had invited Jim to teach him poker; soon, three others from John's high-rise were drawn into what's now a weekly ritual.


John first joined LBFE as an elder friend in 2008, primarily attending parties and holiday dinners. But last spring, he was matched with Visiting Volunteer Jim Anathan and, according to John, "suddenly I'm in a family." In addition to the poker club, John and Jim attend sporting events, and share meals at restaurants and at Jim's home - "Anything to get him out of the high-rise and into fresh air," adds Jim.


"In my position," says John, "with no relatives or long-term friends, it gets pretty darn boring."

Jim recalls when LBFE staff member Josh Windham contacted him shortly after his volunteer orientation. "Josh said, 'I've got a real character for you.'" Jim and John soon realized how much they had in common - especially travel. A print salesman for Cimarron, Jim's territory is the entire U.S., so he's often on the road.


John traveled throughout the majority of his life. "I've been through 30 states, and lived in many of them, averaging two to three years in each." He was raised in Tombstone, Arizona, "but I didn't have a very good family life. My dad was an alcoholic who threatened me physically and said I was no good." One day, when John was 18, the sheriff intercepted when his father was violent. "He was sent to Wyoming and I never saw him again," said John.


Appreciating his new-found independence, he took to the road, working in restaurants, hospitals, and as an ambulance driver. "After a couple of years in one place, I would get restless and think, 'Where am I going to go next?'" He landed in the Twin Cities in 1983 and, due to a disability, ended up staying.


"Up to the age of 22 I was very bitter. Finally, I said to myself, 'What are you doing, John?'" He put the past behind him and decided to make the best of his life, including reaching out to others. "There have been 10 or 12 people I've encountered over the years who I believe I've helped put on the right path," he said. John has cultivated his many talents, too, from painting to singing and playing piano.


Jim gifted the poker group at John's high-rise with custom made T-shirts.

"I really admire how John has a way of making lemonade out of lemons," Jim said. The appreciation goes both ways. In fact, John credits Jim with saving his life. "One time when we were eating at MacDonald's, I started choking on a hamburger," John recalled. "Yep," said Jim, "I applied the old Heimlich maneuver and dislodged it." John still polished off the rest of his meal. "I'm addicted to hamburgers," said John. "Not anymore, you're not," laughed Jim.


Discover for yourself the difference you can make as a Visiting Volunteer. Contact Josh at or 612.746.0732 for more information.

Find us on Facebook

Staying independent ... with a little help from friends
From the Executive Director
Volunteer gets added benefits from visits
Activities calendar
Easter dinner volunteer positions
In memory
Gallery: Holiday moments to treasure


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

Twin Cities



Fiscal Year 2013 





Become a vibrant part of Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly!


Will you help bring joy to 
elders who would otherwise have no one with whom to share their Easter? 

Sunday, April 20, 12-2 p.m. 
Prom Center in Oakdale.

To volunteer, contact 
Danielle at dfehring@
or 612.746.0726.




The following people we 

served were remembered at our December memorial service:


Ken Bond

Erma McCarthy

Marjorie Ramstad

Jim Sauve

Sally Silver

Clara Yakowenko

John Young


Our next memorial services are Monday, April 21 

and Monday, June 16 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 612.746.0732 or jwindham@

if you wish to attend. Open to all. 








LBFE was a recipient of the Murphy family's 43rd annual Turkey Run. The family 
delivered nine 30-lb. turkeys 
to be served at our holiday 
dinners for our elder friends.


  "It's the best gift I've ever received," exclaimed LBFE 
elder friend Karlyneas she displayed the make-up case provided by a donor.
Elder friends and volunteers mingled as the turkey dinner 
was served up at Bethel 
Lutheran Church on 
Christmas Day.

Elder friend Joyce proudly displayed her holiday-'themed vest to others attending the Christmas dinner.

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