With Grandparents’ Day on Sunday, September 13, I’d like to take the opportunity to talk about the Foster Grandparent program. It is a nation-wide program that is part of the Senior Corps set of programs.
The Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) began in 1965 and provides loving and experienced tutors and mentors to children and youth with special needs. ESNG’s 100 volunteers work one-on-one and serving between 15 and 40 hours a week in schools, child care centers and other youth facilities. Among other activities, they review schoolwork, reinforce values, teach parenting skills to young parents, and care for children with disabilities. Foster Grandparents often maintain an ongoing, intensive relationship with the children served for a year or longer.
Foster Grandparents are role models, mentors, and friends. They give the kind of comfort and love that sets a child on the path toward a successful future.
According to Senior Corps, across the nation:
- Volunteers 27,900
- Hours Served 24 million
- Young People Served 232,300
- Children of Prisoners Served 7,000
- Number of Children of Military Families Served 2,250
- Number of Projects 325
- Annual Federal Funding $110.7 million
- Non-Federal Support $33 million
On a local level, one of my personal favorites in the program is Grandpa Rivers at Guice.
Grandpa Rivers has been volunteering at Easter Seals’ Guice Child Development Center for the past four years. He began this new phase of his life after decades in the catering service. As a manager, he helped run events at the Georgia Dome, World Congress Center and Centennial Park (including the Olympics). After he was forced to give up work due to illness, he realized he wasn’t ready or willing to retire. He loved interaction way too much to just sit around the house.
A friend told him about the Foster Grandparent program. Even though he did not have very much experience with children, he thought he’d give it a shot. Grandpa Rivers immediately fell in love with all the children at the center.
Now, he shadows two children who need a little more attention. His presence in the classroom isn’t just a help to the teachers, it’s a friendly, inviting and supportive male face for the children.
“Grandpa Rivers is such an inspiration to all the children at Guice,” says center manager Victoria Holbert. “He is always smiling, playing and helping the children become their best selves. With his guidance, we know the children will start elementary school with the tools they’ll need not just to learn, but to succeed.”
In 2014, the teachers at Guice Child Development Center presented him with Grandpa of the Year award. He hung this award in his house as a reminder that his work means something – that he is making a difference in his community.