A new nonprofit seeks to connect volunteers with isolated senior citizens and others at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson launched NorthStar Neighbor over the weekend on social media.

“We’re hoping to find those seniors or at-risk people who don’t have an existing network and just need a friend right now,” Johnson said.

He and several friends from Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley modeled the effort on a similar nonprofit in Louisville, Ky., Johnson said. He’s designed the program for the current pandemic.

The goal is to match healthy, low-risk Minnesotans under 60 with residents who are older than 60 or high risk.

“First and foremost, it’s about conversation and companionship and not being alone,” said Johnson, the GOP candidate for governor in 2014 and 2018.

Once the connection is made, the nonprofit bows out and the volunteer is encouraged to talk via phone or electronic means on a regular basis with his or her match, inquiring about needed deliveries of supplies, food or prescriptions.

The trick is to find those individuals who aren’t connected to religious communities or other nonprofits — people who “nobody is looking out for,” he said.

As was the case in Louisville, Johnson said he expects to find volunteers more easily than needy residents.

“Those who volunteer are providing a gift to someone in need, but it’s important to recognize that those who are receiving help are also providing a gift to someone who desperately wants to help a fellow Minnesotan in this time of social isolation,” he said.

Hennepin County isn’t involved in the effort, but Johnson said that as a member of the County Board he kept hearing from people who wanted to volunteer.

Anyone wanting to volunteer or needing a match can apply through the website NorthStarNeighbor.com or by calling 612-430-8899.

 

Twitter: @rochelleolson