When Dana Ehli first met her charge, she was known simply as Irene Balint. Now, she goes by “Grandma Irene.”
Ehli is a volunteer for Caring Corps, a Mesa branch of East Valley Senior Services that connects volunteers to seniors who are homebound and need help running errands.
And they are looking for more people like her.
“Now, we are really low because we lost volunteers going to cooler climates,” said Kristen Robb, Caring Corps coordinator. “We could never have too many volunteers.”
Robb said she often turns away clients because there are not enough volunteers.
“If only people realized when they get service they get so much back in return,” she said. “It’s karma I guess.”
Ehli picked up Balint, 89, on Thursday to buy groceries, stop for lunch and purchase fresh fruit from a farmers market.
As they loaded up in Ehli’s van they traded jokes like, “Are you going to bring your cane so you can leave it in the car?”
“I always leave it in the car,” Balint said with a laugh.
Ehli, a single mother of children ages 16, 13 and 9, said she finds time to come by while her kids are in school.
The two have grown closer in the past six months.
“She’s just now getting up the nerve to call me when she needs something,” Ehli said. “She’s constantly saying she doesn’t want to be a burden.”
Balint’s husband usually did all the driving, so when he died in 1996, it left her with little recourse.
She has found friends, and there’s usually someone around to take her to church, but she didn’t have anything reliable.
“I was stranded,” she said. Taxis would leave her waiting at the grocery store with melting ice cream, and few services actually go out to her home in east Mesa.
“I don’t mind paying for anything I need,” she said. “I don’t want anything for nothing.”
Caring Corps is funded by donations, so the volunteer transport service is free, Robb said.
Clients must be homebound, meaning they don’t drive, and have one or more chronic medical conditions.
Volunteers usually take clients to one medical appointment a week, grocery shopping twice a month and often visit or call for purely social reasons.
The volunteers turn in their hours each month, so the organization can keep track for Mesa and United Way — entities that fund grants.
“We are time-friendly, meaning they can take someone grocery shopping on weekends, 7 at night, 6 in the morning,” Robb said. “What can you do?”
How to volunteer
Contact Caring Corps at (480) 962-5612 or e-mail at