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Home > Medical Services > Family Caregivers Center > Volunteer > Reeling in Friendship
As someone who felt the excitement of fishing his whole life, Rex Eno now enjoys helping others feel the same pleasure of being outdoors. As part of the Friendship Force at the Family Caregivers Center of Mercy, he can live out that joy by helping others.
Family Caregivers Center volunteers help people with chronic conditions who need assistance from their caregivers to engage in an activity. This allows them to do something fun while their caregivers are able to have respite time. It’s a “three-way win,” according to the Director of the Family Caregivers Center, Kathy Good, because it’s good for the caregivers, their loved ones and the volunteers.
Rex takes men who have dementia fishing, so they can have fun while their caregivers receive much-needed time away to catch up on activities or simply get some rest.
“I have been fortunate to fish all my life, so it’s not as important anymore that I catch a lot of fish, but I get a lot of joy and pleasure out of other people catching fish and enjoying themselves outside,” Rex said.
To enjoy the warmth of the outdoors, Rex tries to take each man out a couple of times a summer and makes sure each of them has the same amount of time.
“I want to give the caregivers a several-hour break, so they don’t have to worry about picking them up or dropping them off,” he said. “Usually, after we fish for a couple of hours, I try to go to lunch at the Dairy Queen. A couple of the guys just like to be out, so we’ll drive around or take a walk.”
After he has matched schedules with the caregiver, Rex picks up one of the men and takes him to one of the many local farm fishing ponds. And because Rex knows the ponds are full of fish, he knows the men will get a bite every time they venture out to the ponds.
Over the last couple of years, Rex’s favorite part about taking these men fishing has been their excitement, especially when they catch a fish. Even though they return the fish back to the pond after they’re caught, the fishermen are still determined and focused on reeling in a fish.
“Fishing transports you out of your day-to-day activities and all the things that you do into a different place while you’re doing it,” he said.
There’s one story Rex remembers well from taking someone fishing as part of the Friendship Force:
“It was in August; the algae was surrounding the pond, so fishing was difficult,” he said. “On this pond, there was a boat with an electric motor. I know the guy who owns the pond, so I had permission to use it. I checked the motor and it had the juice that it needed.
“I told my friend, ‘Let’s get in the boat, and we’ll get away from this stuff, so you can cast away from it.’
“The boat had a paddle in it. While I’m fiddling with the motor while we’re out in the pond, my friend starts fishing and he says, ‘Hey, Rex, there’s some water in this boat.’
“I said, ‘Well, it’s an old boat, so sometimes they seep a bit.’”
“My friend said, ‘Oh, okay.’
“I told him to keep casting. I’m cursing at this motor, and pretty soon, he says, ‘Hey, Rex, the water is over my shoes.’
“I had forgotten the plug was on the dock! There was a breeze that day, so we were blown to the middle of the pond. I told him we need to get back and just then, he catches a really big bass. Of course, he’s excited and wants to reel it in, and I said, ‘You keep fighting with him and I’ll paddle us in.’”
Laughing as he recalls this memory, it’s clear that Rex values the time spent with men from the Friendship Force and is happy to share his love for fishing with others.
“Fishermen have a certain latitude that other people don’t; they can embellish and exaggerate and it’s okay,” joked Rex. “My observation is that I’ve seen more 20-pound Northern Pike that were really closer to 12 pounds. That’s part of the fun.”
Rex grew up on a farm in the “megalopolis” — as Rex jokingly refers to it — of Newell, Iowa. His grandfather and father fished, so it was only natural for him, as well.
“On the farm, we didn’t have a lot of money, but if you had a fishing pole and you could dig worms, you could go fishing,” he said. “It was a wonderful pastime.”
Transforming his interest into helping caregivers is rewarding for Rex. To learn how you can make a difference in caregivers’ lives just like Rex, contact the Family Caregivers Center at (319) 221-8866 or visit www.mercycare.org/services/family-caregivers-center/ to see how your interests and strengths could benefit caregivers during this difficult time.
Volunteers who will be providing companionship to a person living with a chronic condition, receive initial training, periodic continuing education and consultations with the Family Caregivers Center as needed. COVID-19 mitigation procedures have paused the companionship programs of the Family Caregivers Center, but they look forward to resuming these important activities soon.