Sage Volunteers Were Lifesavers For Berkeley Heights Woman

It’s no exaggeration when Geraldine says the volunteers at SAGE Eldercare “saved [her] life.”
She fell getting out of bed and broke her hip the night before she was to receive groceries from SAGE, a grocery shopping and errand service. When volunteer Judy Leane arrived with groceries that morning, she knew something was amiss when Geraldine didn’t greet her at the door of her Berkeley Heights home. She called SAGE Volunteer Coordinator Amy Stuart, who went by to check for herself and found the house still locked and dark. She felt in her gut something must be wrong, as it wasn’t like Geraldine to miss her weekly visit. Stuart called family members and then the police, who ended up breaking down the door. Geraldine was found inside – had been on the floor all night. In the following days, she found herself dealing with a pin in her leg and a broken hip. All in all, Geraldine underwent a two-week stay in the hospital and a full month of rehabilitation before she returned home and resumed the SAGE services.
“And here I am, thanks to the people of SAGE who were insistent that I was home,” Geraldine said. “The grocery shopping service saved my life, literally.”
Another SAGE volunteer, Judy Chicka of Summit, was holding Geraldine’s hand as she woke up from her surgery  – before Geraldine’s family could arrive  – and helped her with getting to follow-up doctor appointments. Chicka had met Geraldine in her capacity as a volunteer for Meals with Friends, a friendly visitor program that SAGE offers to minimize social isolation. The two have lunch and chats once a week, and talk on the phone regularly. “We have a special friendship. If we had met some other way, we would have become friends. Geraldine is a very interesting person with a wonderful, creative mind,” Chicka shared.
Now, Geraldine is equipped with a medical alert monitoring system (which SAGE can also help arrange) and she happily greeted Leane with a big smile on a recent visit. Her smile only grew larger when she saw the bags of food, especially the eclairs and the banana she’d ordered – Leane had been extra careful to pick out “just the right one.”
“When you’re shopping for someone else, you really feel like you have to do the best job. If she’s only getting one banana, I’m going to make sure it is a really good one. When you’re shopping for yourself, you might not realize how many choices there can be,” said Leane, a Chatham resident.
The grocery shopping service offered by SAGE helps homebound seniors get personalized shopping for a small fee. Volunteers take the senior’s grocery list each week, pick up the items in the Shop-Rite of Millburn (on Thursdays) or Stirling (on Wednesdays), and then deliver the groceries to their kitchen, while providing a watchful eye and a friendly visit. The grocery shopping and errand service reaches older adults living in areas surrounding Summit, where SAGE is based.
“For us, it’s good to get out and see different people and feel helpful,” said Chris Finazzo, Leane’s neighbor and her shopping helper. And for Chicka, who wasn’t able to be around when her parents were older and relied on others to keep them company, volunteering for SAGE is her way of “paying it forward.”
For Geraldine and other grocery shopping service recipients, it’s both a chance to get fresh groceries when they otherwise couldn’t get out of the house, and to entertain a friendly visitor. She responds to Leane’s farewell of, “It’s good to see you, have a great day,” with her own enthusiastic, “It is ALWAYS good to see SAGE!”
For more information about volunteering or receiving the grocery shopping and errand services offered at SAGE, please call: 908.273.5554.
About SAGE Eldercare
Since 1954, SAGE Eldercare has been helping make the communities it serves amazing places within which to age. The non-profit organization provides a wide array of information, support, and services designed to help individuals lead the most independent and active lives possible. From helping with errands and delivering Meals on Wheels, to exercise classes, community programs, Medicare counseling, care planning, an adult day health care program, and home health care, as well as the SAGE Resale Shop and Furniture Restoration Workshop – SAGE’s expertise helps older adults remain independent in their own homes. SAGE is committed to being the leading provider of programs and services to meet the changing needs of older adults, their families, and caregivers in Union, Essex, Morris, and Somerset Counties. For more information, please call 908.273.5550 or visit

(pictured l-r) Geraldine of Berkeley Heights and volunteer Judy Chicka of Summit enjoy a Lunch, Learn & Listen program at SAGE Eldercare. Judy and Geraldine have formed a special friendship through SAGE. For more information about volunteering at SAGE, please call: 908.273.5554.