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Friends for Life reaches out to Waco

Sept. 19, 2003

By Erika Walter, reporter

Most Baylor students don't think twice about their ability to run into H-E-B, grab a few items and exit the store in minutes. For many of the elderly in Waco, though, simple errands are difficult tasks.

For the past year, Ben Meeks, a Center junior, has used his time and car to help people who need a ride and perhaps even a friend.

Meeks volunteers several days a week through Friends for Life, a nonprofit agency that helps serve and care for the elderly and disabled.

'It's fun,' Meeks said. 'You get to meet lots of people. You feel like you're actually making a difference.'

One of the people Meeks has met through Friends for Life is Alice Lockhart, 77, who doesn't have a car because driving makes her 'very nervous.'

Lockhart said Meeks volunteers to drive her to the grocery store when she needs to shop. At the store, Meeks pushes the cart when it gets too heavy because Lockhart fractured her hip this year, so pushing and lifting heavy things can be painful, she said.

Lockhart said she has been impressed with Meeks' kindness, and she said Meeks makes her feel comfortable.

'I'm shy, but the first time we went to the store we talked like we'd known each other for a long time,' Lockhart said.

Lockhart said she appreciated how Meeks always asked her if she had any other errands to do after they got the groceries.

Meeks also has made an impact on Nina Larivee, client services manager at Friends for Life. Larivee said Meeks understands how to be gentle and caring with those he helps.

'He is a treasure to work with,' Larivee said.

Though Meeks chooses to help primarily with transportation, the agency offers many programs, she said.

In addition to Meeks, between 30 and 40 Baylor students work with Friends for Life.

Friends for Life offers opportunities for volunteers to make birthday cards, encourage pen pals and read Scripture, she said.

Through the HomeWORD Bound program at Friends for Life, volunteers read the Bible to homebound people, Larivee said. Some people also like to have volunteers read the newspaper aloud.

She said the agency needs donations of large and giant-print Bibles, tape recorders and music or sermon tapes.

'We are beginning to address spiritual needs,' Larivee said.

The agency, which was founded in 1989, also helps people with household repairs, yard work and meals.

Other ways to get involved with Friends for Life are through pet therapy, telephone calls and holiday celebrations.

'I don't know anything more rewarding than helping,' Larivee said. 'Their faces light up when the Baylor students show up at their doors.'

Meeks said he encourages other students to help with Friends for Life.

'I don't think Baylor students know about it as much as they could,' Meeks said. 'Friends for Life is trying to get more students involved.'