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Seniors helping out their peers

Molly Shore

When Minette Wilson was going through a rough period five years

ago because of physical ailments, she thought a way out of the

doldrums might be to immerse herself in volunteer work.


“I made some phone calls to various hospitals and asked if there

was anything I could do at home. I was not driving at the time,” she


After several inquiries, Wilson, 86, connected with Carolyn Young,


supervisor of the Senior Peer Counseling program at Holy Cross

Medical Center in Mission Hills that ministers to people 55 and

older. Young was searching for additional volunteers to start the

same program at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank.

Young put Wilson to work doing initial interviews with new


“In the beginning, I wasn’t too sure what I was doing, but after a

couple of phone calls, I stopped thinking about myself and started


concentrating on other people,” Wilson said.

When she obtains the client’s case history, Wilson gives the

information to Young, who assigns one of 40 volunteer counselors to

the case.

North Hollywood resident Bette Bershak, 55, received counseling

for three years.

“I’d been very, very depressed. A friend of mine told me about

[the program] and I called,” Bershak said. “I had a wonderful


counselor. She helped me through issues I had with my mother and

members of my family.”

Counselors often hear stories from senior shut-ins about

depression, grief, loss and the normal processes of aging, Young


“What makes this program unique is that it’s free and we go to the

home. I don’t know of another mental-health professional out there

who does that,” Young said.

For more information on this program, call Young at 953-4400, ext.