With the recent popularity of online social networking, friendships and communication can be fleeting and temporary. For area residents Joe Leber and Robbin Eicher, their friendship has proved to be much more than just a brief acquaintanceship. As participants in the Compeer program of Chester County, these two men have shared remarkable experiences through the one on one partnership that the program proudly offers.

Looking for something to fill his time after 25 years of working with DuPont, Robbin was introduced to Compeer through a friend who felt he would be well suited to volunteer. After applying, Robbin was matched up with Joe. Born in Phoenixville, Joe heard about the program in 2005 and quickly became a part of Compeer. In the nearly three years that have past, the pair has grown incredibly close and found great comfort within this relationship. Although they come from two very different backgrounds, Joe and Robbin share similar interests that keep their friendship strong. When spending time together, they enjoy running errands and having lunch two to three times a month. For the two, just being together is enough. Very active within the Compeer community, Joe and Robbin make a point of attending all of the events, which include bowling and picnics. Because life can be very hectic, both of the men stay in regular contact with one another through e-mails, where Joe contacts Robbin on a computer Robbin refurbished especially for him.

Through this unique friendship, both Joe and Robbin have become parts of one another's families. For Joe, their relationship has become more than a phone call or e-mail every few days: "Robbin is fantastic. I've met so many new friends within and around him." Neither Joe nor Robbin see the friendship they have fading any time soon. For both of them, Compeer has created very close, lifelong friends. "It's an easy way to give of yourself and to give time to others. It's a relaxed atmosphere because it's whatever Joe and I want to do. I'd recommend it to anybody. And it really helps people because it is one on one," Robbin says.

For Rob Chisholm, Chester County's Compeer founder, these friendships are life changing for both

parties involved. His time spent working at the Norristown State Hospital led him to learn that patients who were most successful were the ones who had friendships within the community. "I found that the most meaningful and profound volunteer assignment was the one to one friendships between the state hospital patients and community volunteers," he says. Within the community, Compeer Chester County is a part of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP), which services Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties as well (MHASP). Similarly, Compeer is supported by the Chester County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Administration (MH/MR). Within Pennsylvania, there are 14 programs that serve approximately 25 of the 57 counties in the state, with worldwide programs spanning the United States, Canada, and Australia.

"Having a friend, one person who cares about you, makes all the difference in the world," Rob says. Aside from meeting regularly, like Robbin and Joe do, Compeer meets on a quarterly basis where the entire program of Chester County's approximately 75 one to one matches meet for luncheons and picnics. Currently, there are 6 people in the Phoenixville area that are looking to be matched with a volunteer. To contact Compeer for more information or to become a volunteer, visit http://www.compeerchesco.org/index.html" http://www.compeerchesco.org/index.html or call (610) 436-4445.

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