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Make a difference in the lives of our young people. Consider becoming a foster grandparent.
Two Richmond women are enjoying the role of foster grandparent to children in this area.
Fern Hancox has been in the program for 17 years, currently at the Christian daycare operated by the First Church of God in Richmond.
“I work with very small children, ages two to four. I read to them and work with their class and their teacher,” Hancox said. “It’s one-on-one too.”
“I work there too,” said Caroline Lee, who has participated in the program for three years, spending her first year with Head Start. “We help with table manners. We’re really big on that, and on teaching love and kindness. We also help to bundle and unbundle them when they go outside.”
The two women are dedicated. Though the program encourages participants to serve a minimum of 15 hours per week, Hancox and Lee both happily spend over 30 hours each week working with the little ones.
Pat Caylor worked with Head Start when it started in 1965. She has served on the Foster Grandparent Program advisory council for many years. Her work was recognized when she was presented with the Lt. Governor’s Service Award. “We used to have 14 or so foster grandparents here, but some retired, some are in poor health and others have passed.”
Lucy Haston, executive director, has been with the program for over eight years. She said, “There are many opportunities. Volunteers can work with youth up to age 21.”
“We need more volunteers,” said Haston. “If you are loving, willing, enjoy helping others and getting out of the house, if you love children, we’d love to have you.”
Potential foster grandparents meet the following guidelines. They are over 60 years of age; can volunteer an average of 15 hours per week; have limited income; and love children. One grandparent pointed out that kids today often don’t get the one-on-one time with adults that used to be the norm. This time together is very important.
Foster Grandparents receive some helpful benefits too. They “receive pre-service orientation and monthly training, an annual physical exam, supplemental insurance, a small stipend (totally non-taxable) if they meet qualifications, help with meal and transportation costs, and the joy of knowing they are making a difference for children.”
Haston said volunteers meet monthly in Higginsville where they enjoy a great lunch and listen to a topic on children or senior issues. They also have a yearly banquet.
Children benefit by receiving attention they might not otherwise receive, confidence from the volunteer’s faith in them, tutoring to help them in school, advice and life skills, and the opportunity to know the love of a Foster Grandparent.
The Foster Grandparent Program serving Johnson, Lafayette, Ray and Saline counties had 62 foster grandparent volunteers in 2008. They served 61,248 hours. Fifty-four of them served 152 preschool through elementary school children through one-on-one tutoring/mentoring activities and influenced 1,068 students through their presence in classrooms in 25 volunteer stations. Additionally, eight volunteers served 10 mentally challenged individuals in four volunteer stations. Volunteers serve from 15 to 40 hours per week and several serve at more than one location.
“We are celebrating our 37th anniversary this year,” said Haston. “We’ve been a national program since 1965, funded by the Corporation for National & Community Service.” The program is sponsored by Bi-County SERVICE, Inc.
So far, volunteers have already tallied 28,529 hours this year. Volunteer stations vary, from Head Start centers, nonprofit preschool and daycare programs, public and parochial elementary school, a youth residential ranch, a women’s and children’s shelter, to two state rehabilitation centers, a high school special education program and a sheltered workshop.
When asked why she does this, Caroline Lee paused and said, “I don’t have a hobby and thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ It’s a good program for someone who is alone and just sitting at home. I got into this and my kids say they can sure see a change in me.” Lee has four daughters, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Hancox said, “Pat (Caylor) talked me into doing this. She thought I’d like working with children. I don’t have any children or grandchildren.” She now has a great many of them and both women enjoy the love they receive from the children.
Whether a potential volunteer meets income guidelines does not matter. Anyone is welcome to become a part of the program. For more information, please contact them at 660-584-7421 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Granny Carrie Lee (left) volunteers as a Foster Grandparent at the Richmond First Church of God Preschool where she helps small children, such as (left to right) Alyssa Shore, Madison Goetz and Blake Logsdon to decipher a puzzle mystery. Lee and Fern Hancox enjoy their foster grandmother role at the preschool where they serve 30 hours each week. (Photo by Brenda Jensen/The Daily News)