For older people, nursing homes can be a very lonely place. A local volunteer group is changing that -- one patient at a time -- but it needs volunteers.
His feet may tremble, but Ed Johns walks with a purpose.
"I do this for God," he said.
Johns visits literally hundreds of nursing home patients in Phillipsburg, N.J. It's part of an all-volunteer group he founded, called "Turn a Frown Around."
"Makes them much happier," said Yvette Barker, with Brakeley Care Center, a nursing home in Phillipsburg, Warren Co.
For many seniors, Johns is their only visitor.
"It can very sad and very lonely for them," he said.
Tuesday's patient was Anna, a fiesty 88-year-old who still loves to flirt.
"Ooh la-la!", she said to Johns. "I'm all hot under the collar. Get me a fan."
Johns needs volunteers; he calls them "forever friends."
"They show up at least once a week for 20 minutes, and just sit with that one person," he said.
Barker said volunteers are carefully screened before they can have access to elderly patients.
"You do screenings. You do background checks," she said. "You do good orientation where you're educating the volunteers the dos and don'ts."
Back to that walk with a purpose. Johns had multiple sclerosis. He knows the loneliness illness can bring.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "If I didn't have this illness, I don't think -- I know I wouldn't be doing this. I guarantee it."
If you would like to be a "forever friend," call 908-454-8818 or go to the Turn a Frown Around website.