A suicide more than 30 years ago inspired a massive effort to fight loneliness among older citizens.
The unexpected death of 78 year old George Crowley in 1980 ignited a passion that is helping grandparents and older adults today.
"That's a blessing! That's an angel from heaven," said Lena Mitchell.
She's playing bingo at Mitchell Court Elderly Housing Community on West National Avenue. It's a lively time for the dozens of seniors attending.
There's laughter, applause, and excitement as "Bingo" is called out and those with the winning numbers claim their prizes. It's an event where everyone is a winner and the prizes are basic necessities like toilet paper and other toiletries.
It's just one of hundreds of social events for the elderly sponsored by Community Projects for Seniors.
"We just want to make people happy. That's what we in the community to do," said Jeffery Hansen founder of Community Projects for Seniors.
Hansen founded the organization after his grandfather committed suicide
"Back in 1986 my grandfather was suffering from depression nobody knew that and for him to take his own life was very tragic." he said. "My grandfather unfortunately was suffering from depression. He had a loving family and was suffering from depression and he took his own life." Hansen says if that can happen to a man from a loving family, it's even worse for those with few or no loved ones near.
Hansen has dedicated his life to making sure no seniors are alone. His organization sponsors social events, outings and holiday meals for more than 10,000 seniors in 50 cities and 200 sites in 8 Wisconsin counties
"It's good therapy! There's a lot of people suffering from depression. It gets people out having a great time and having a good fun time," Hansen said.
"I think Jeff is the type of person he reach out to everybody with his love and understanding. The love he's got in his heart. Jeff is a wonderful person," said client Lena Mitchell.
In 1986 Hansen started with only 3 family members. Today more than 500 volunteers help with the many services offered by Community Projects for Seniors.
"It's enlightening, its uplifting, it's a lot of fun!" said volunteer Carolyn Byrn.
At Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, volunteers will prepare more than 4,000 meals. But clients say it's about more than social events, it's about "Love."
"The love they give us from the bottom of my heart, I really appreciate that," said Lena Mitchell
So out of death, Jeffery Hansen has found a way to bless the living and preserve his grandfather's spirit.
"My grandfather always had a big heart, always wanted to help people. I really think he's looking down and I think he would be proud of what we accomplished--not me but what our organization community projects accomplished," Hansen said.
For more information, click here to visit their websiteor call (414) 444-6544.