MIphone Buddy Volunteer Handbook

Welcome to MIFA’s MIphone Buddy Program and thank you for volunteering! We appreciate your time and your concern for our senior clients, and we hope your service as a phone buddy is rewarding.

One objective of MIFA Meals on Wheels is to relieve the isolation many of our senior neighbors feel. Your phone calls will provide an additional social contact, offering comfort and companionship to those who may be lonely. Clients will enjoy and look forward to your calls.

This handbook will provide an overview of the program, as well as guidelines, expectations, and other useful information. Please keep it handy for easy reference.

What is the MIphone Buddy Program?

The MIphone Buddy Program connects homebound Meals on Wheels clients with volunteers who provide friendly phone calls to break isolation and ease loneliness. This program supports the independence of our most vulnerable population—seniors who are aging in place—by providing a support system that helps them remain in their homes.

Clients are at least 60 years of age and/or disabled, so they may be slow to answer the phone, have difficulty hearing, or have other obstacles that make phone conversation difficult. Please communicate clearly and be patient and friendly.



  • Open to current MIFA Meals on Wheels clients.
  • The program is intended to serve area seniors who are homebound, isolated, living alone, or otherwise in need of regular social contact.
  • Clients who live in homes with multiple residents are eligible as well.
  • Must provide a valid telephone number to receive calls on.


  • Must register to be a MIFA volunteer.
  • Complete a background check.
  • Complete MIphone Buddy training.

Calling Assignments

  • Each volunteer will be matched with a “route” of about 10 seniors to contact.
  • Volunteers will receive the name, phone number, and any other relevant client information.
  • Please complete at least one call per week. Additional calls may be necessary in case of time-sensitive MIFA announcements, inclement weather, and shelf-stable meal delivery.


As a MIphone Buddy volunteer, you will be privy to client information that is personal and confidential. You will be asked to read and sign MIFA’s Confidentiality and Nondisclosure for Volunteers, Non-Employees, and MIFA Staff that pledges your understanding and commitment to honor this policy.  Should staff determine a breach of confidentiality, you may be terminated as a MIFA volunteer.

Honoring MIFA’s Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Statement includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Protecting client information from view. Keep the client’s information and your call log (if using a paper call log) in a secure, private place.

We ask that you be mindful of your surroundings and make your calls in a secure location where you will not be overheard by others. Out of respect for the clients, please refrain from making calls while driving.

Calling Procedures

You are asked to call each client weekly. Thursdays or Fridays are preferred, as fewer meals are delivered on those days. Please call before 6 p.m. if possible.

You may be asked to make additional calls for holidays, birthdays, MIFA announcements, inclement weather, and shelf-stable meal deliveries.

When you call

Familiarize yourself with the resources in this handbook so you will know where to look if the client has a question. Keep the handbook with you when you make your calls.

Process for calls

  • If the client does not answer, leave a message and mention that you are a volunteer for MIFA’s MIphone Buddy Program, in addition to leaving your name and the day of your call (along with your phone number if you would like the client to call you back, but this is optional).
  • Wait 10 minutes.
  • Call back a second time.
  • If they still have not answered, please make a note for your Volunteer Check-In Form.
  • Phone numbers may not work, or clients may not pick up. If calls have gone unanswered for a long period of time, consider that they’ve opted out from MIphone Buddy calls.

Volunteers are encouraged to spend some time chatting with the client as this may be the only conversation clients have all day. Be prepared with some basic questions or talking points. Some clients may prefer a short check-in while others might want an extended conversation.

Conversation starters

  • How are you feeling today?
  • How is everything going?
  • Have you spoken to anyone else today?
  • How was your Meals on Wheels meal today?
  • Anything interesting you are currently reading?
  • Is there anything you want to talk about?

Volunteers will refrain from providing health-related advice. The MIphone Buddy Program is not a referral service, telemedicine provider, or medical alert service. Health concerns are an important and popular topic with senior clients, but volunteers cannot recommend treatment or provide advice regarding health-related issues such as diagnosis, care or treatment, or referral to a particular health care provider or facility. If medical advice is requested, do not offer any advice but encourage the client to contact his or her doctor. If you notice this is an ongoing concern, make note of it in your MIphone Volunteer Check-In.

Under no circumstances are you permitted to accept money from a client.

When you’re done

You will be emailed a short, three-question Weekly Volunteer Check-In Form on Friday evenings. Please record any issues, concerns, or other relative notes. Check-Ins should be finished before the following Monday.

Inclement weather

MIFA may not be able to deliver meals during inclement weather. When this happens, we will ask you to call the client and check in. During this call, remind the client that they may still have shelf-stable meals they can eat until deliveries resume.

Situations You May Encounter and How to Respond

We take the well-being of our clients seriously, and we ask our volunteers to report any crisis immediately by calling (901) 598-6597.

Medical Issues

  • If a client has a medical emergency, tell the client you are calling 911 for them, ask their location, then hang up and dial 911 immediately and provide the client’s information. Then contact Angela Scott at ascott@mifa.org or (901) 529-4558 to inform her of the incident.
  • As mentioned previously, as a volunteer you cannot give any medical advice. If medical advice is requested, refer them to their doctor or primary care physician.
  • If a concern arises during your conversations but it is not an immediate medical emergency, please record it in your MIphone Volunteer Check-In.

Assistance and Benefits

  • If a client is behind on his or her rent, mortgage, or utilities direct them to submit an online application at mifa.org/applyonline.
  • If a client needs a wheelchair ramp and/or home weatherization, refer them to the Aging Commission of the Mid-South at (901) 222-4111.
  • If a client’s power is out, have them call the MLGW outage hotline at (901) 544-6500.
  • If a client has questions regarding Social Security benefits, refer them to the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.
  • If a client is dealing with bed bugs, refer them to Shelby County Health Department at (901) 222-9000.

If a client has questions about Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, refer them to the VA. 

  • For the Veterans’ Crisis Line, dial (800) 273-8255, then press 1.
  • To schedule an appointment: (901) 523-8990, Monday-Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
  • Within Memphis metro area: (901) 577-7221
  • Toll free number: (800) 636-8262 ext. 7221 or select option 8
  • Afterhours calls: Contact the VA MidSouth Healthcare Network Advice Line, located at the VA medical Center in Lexington, KY, (877) 291-5311
  • Advocacy for former Prisoners of War (POWs): (901) 523-8990 ext. 6640
  • Compensation and pension: (901) 523-8990 or (800) 636-8262 (press 5, then press 3)
  • Patient advocates (for complaints, compliments, or other issues): Transition Patient Advocates, (901) 523-6340 or (901) 523-6338; Patient Advocate, (901) 577-7447

If you believe a client is the victim of elder abuse, refer them to the Adult Protective Services Hotline at (888) 277-8366, the Community Response to Elder Abuse at (901) 222-4400, or MIFA’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program at (901) 527-3395. Elder abuse is not limited to physical violence or abuse; it can also manifest in the form of financial exploitation and neglect. If you suspect elder abuse is occurring, please note it in your MIphone Volunteer Check-In and contact Angela Scott at ascott@mifa.org or (901) 529-4558.

Other Resources


Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA)
General office: (901) 722-7100
Lost and found: (901) 523-8134
Bus schedule information: (901) 274-6282
MATA Plus: (901) 722-7171

Legal Services

  • Aging Commission of the Mid-South, (901) 222-4100
  • Community Legal Center, (901) 543-3395
  • Memphis Area Legal Services (MALS), (901) 523-8822

Telephone Solicitations

  • National “Do Not Call” Registry, (888) 382-1222
  • Tennessee Public Utility Commission, (800) 342-8359

Healthcare Resources

  • Case Management Inc. (for mental health services), (901) 821-5600
  • Medicare Help Line, (800) 633-4227
  • National Suicide Hotline, (800) 273-8255
  • Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP). Answers questions about Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare supplement insurance policies, prescription drug discounts, and long-term care insurance. (901) 222-4111
  • TennCare Choices, (901) 222-4111
  • TennCare Consumer Advocacy Line, (800) 722-7474


  • Abused Women’s Services YWCA, (901) 725-4277
  • Adult Protective Services Hotline, (888) 277-8366
  • American Red Cross, Memphis Area Chapter, (901) 527-0226
  • Community Response to Elder Abuse (CREA), (901) 222-4400
  • Memphis Fire Department, (901) 458-8281
  • Memphis Police Department Non-Emergency Line, (901) 545-2677
  • Memphis Crisis Center, (901) 274-7477
  • Mid-South Food Bank, (901) 527-0841
  • Neighborhood Christian Center (for furniture and AC units), (901) 881-6013
  • Shelby County Health Department, (901) 222-9000


We welcome your feedback! We value your opinion and are counting on you to help us improve. Contact Angela Scott at ascott@mifa.org or (901) 529-4558.

MIphone Buddy Program made possible by