Heart Of Ida: Helping Seniors Keep Their Companions

Through their “Ida’s Walkers” program, Heart of Ida volunteers are able to help seniors keep their beloved pets long into their golden years.


By Maricela de Rivera


Like all dogs, Ragamuffin and Princess love their human, Cathy Maddox, unconditionally. As a

lifelong dog owner, the feeling was mutual. Once Maddox found herself with a disability after discharge from a nursing home she realized, “No matter how much I love them, if I can’t take

care of them properly, I can’t keep them, and I’ll be all alone. Having the Heart of Ida come in two days a week for a nice 30-minute walk meant I would be able to keep my only companions with me.”


“When your friends are your dogs and grandchildren but the human set grows up and gets their own life, it’s important to take care of beloved pets.” For so many of the Heart of Ida’s clients, the volunteer dog walking program, called Ida’s Walkers, is a saving grace for our community’s elders. Preserving independence for older adults in the homes of their choosing is the mission, and it comes in all forms.


Maddox is the Heart of Ida’s first client. She remembers fondly when sisters and co-founders Dina Berg and Keri Reich first came to meet her dogs. With a proud laugh she recalls, “Keri said it was important to meet the dogs because all dogs have their own personalities. My Ragamuffin and Princess could be walked by anyone because they’re so easy. Then we got talking and they started asking what else I might need. Oh, over the years I’ve had lots of times when I’ll call and they help me with something, like grab bar (installation) and grocery food cards. Making ends meet when I’m short at the end of the month is a lot to worry about when you’re older.”


The pandemic spotlighted the mental health dangers of isolation. Pandemic or not, that’s where Ida’s Friendly Callers come in. “Keri and Dina helped me so much I told them I wanted to help. So I started making calls to check-in on people. You kind of do case management, finding out when I’m not well enough, I get the calls and don’t volunteer. It’s so nice to get a card in the mail or a nice phone call. It really makes us older people feel like someone cares. They’ll send holiday cards so you feel connected.”


If you’re looking for a way to tangibly, warmly, and positively impact an elder in the Long Beach community, look no further than the Heart of Ida, heartofida.org.


Our mission is to help older adults preserve independence as long as possible, and provide cheer when assisted living is necessary. Ida Alice Reich was a community activist who spent the majority of her time on earth helping those in need. Every year, Ida took her two granddaughters, Dina and Keri, to help deliver gifts to nursing homes. Those visits changed the lives of Dina and Keri. In honor of their grandmother, they started a nonprofit organization, Heart of Ida. Learn more at www.heartofida.org.

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