Bay Area Proud

2 Women, Both Brought Together and Kept Apart by COVID, Finally Meet After 3 Years of Weekly Phone Calls

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Friends Rita LaForce and Austen Creger are very familiar with each other’s voices. Three years of weekly phone calls have taken care of that. But what each other looks like in person? Well, that had to wait until Tuesday.

After hundreds of hours on the phone filled with comforting words during stressful times and stories from their past, LaForce and Creger finally met in person at Ruth’s Table in San Francisco's Mission District.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Creger said while hugging LaForce for the first time.

LaForce and Creger’s friendship is one borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The two were initially connected in March 2020 through a program called Social Call. Run by the nonprofit Front Porch and supported by a $95,000 grant from a Kaiser Permanente fund at the East Bay Community Foundation, Social Call links elderly residents living alone with volunteers willing to make weekly phone calls in the hopes of staving off social isolation.

Creger, who retired from a career in HR just before the pandemic started, was looking for volunteer opportunities she could do while sheltering at home. She found Social Call and was given LaForce’s number.

“When Rita and I got started we would talk sometimes for over two hours because Rita’s stories were really interesting to me and I'd love to hear about them,” said Creger.

LaForce says she was initially skeptical about the idea of talking to a stranger. It didn’t take long, however, for LaForce to consider Creger a friend – and a vital one at that.

“I could not have gotten through it without her and I am so grateful for her because it was her constant friendship,” said LaForce. “She's the most interesting person.”

Creger’s original commitment to Social Call was a weekly call for one year. Three years later, she’s still calling every Tuesday at 11 am.

“I was bringing pleasure to her, she was bringing pleasure to me because I loved hearing her story and we have a lot in common,” said Anderson. “She was really helpful to me as well."

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