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Above: (Marge Cloe with student Emma Wilsey, Sandbox Preschool, Ukiah, CA)

Foster Grandparents: "I Just Don't Sit Around and Grow Old!"

Friday, September 20, 2019

County Seniors Volunteering in Local Schools

Local men and women, in Mendocino County, are volunteering with Senior Corps’ Foster Grandparent Program. Having volunteers to help in the classroom is a big need for many schools, however, when you volunteer, you’re not just helping others—you’re helping yourself. Volunteering leads to new discoveries and new friends. Plus, studies show that volunteering helps you live longer and promotes a positive outlook on life.

The New York Times recently printed an article, “Switching Gears to Retirement”, which tells us how retirement does not have to look like a wasteland awaiting you!” Working with younger generations may be the real fountain of youth. Working with the youth through mentoring, tutoring or coaching, can help navigate the emotion aspects of retirement. (Hannon 2019)

“My doctor said whatever I am doing, to keep doing it!” says Cyndi Mulverhill of Ukiah. “I told my doctor I was volunteering as a Foster Grandparent, in an elementary school classroom. Volunteering 15 hours per week keeps my sanity and my health has improved. Because I volunteer, I haven’t gone through that depression stage that the golden years has for us. I just don’t sit around and grow old!”

Grandma Cyndi and Grandma Marge are part of a 68-member volunteer crew of older adults who share their love, support and time with 5 Counties’ schools in Northern California. Foster Grandparents help with a variety of subjects.

Our Foster Grandparents give students a little bit of extra love, support and encouragement during the school day. An extra person in the classroom can be a huge relief for our teachers. These volunteers can mentor and be a cheerleader encouraging these students. Volunteers agree, “Our children are our future so I’m here to help them as much as I can to get them over the rough spots and help them be productive.” Most volunteers say they get involved because they like helping others.

We are grateful to all our volunteers who are committed to making a difference in the classrooms. Staff and children truly enjoy having a Grandma or Grandpa in the classroom. Last year, we heard back from the teachers and this is what they said:

“Our Foster Grandparent is such a great help! She is amazing with the students and gets tasks done quick, efficient, and neat! I love having her in my classroom to help sing”.

“Grandma is invaluable. I have been blessed to have her in my classroom for so many years!”

“I appreciate our FG’s help with the students. Being there in time for reading groups and accepting my constructive criticism/respecting class routines make our work together go smoothly.”

“I feel very lucky to work with our Foster Grandparent. I can’t imagine doing this without her.”

Who can become a volunteer tutor in the classroom? Income Eligible Seniors who are age 55+. Commitment time is minimum of 15 hours per week, maximum of 40 hours per week. The volunteers need a current TB test (good for four years), and a complete background check. We can reimburse for these if receipts are saved. They need a physical to start, and 20 hours of training which includes job shadowing from our current Foster Grandparents. They receive tax-free stipend pay, mileage reimbursement, volunteer paid time off, (132 hours per year), and accident/liability insurance. That can really help pay the bills.

The tutors also receive a monthly In-Service training and recognition throughout the year. Our Foster Grandparents are quite happy.

All you need to join is the ability to give the kind of comfort and love that sets a child on the path toward a successful future. If you’re 55 or older and want to share your experience and compassion, you have what it takes to be a Foster Grandparent. Get involved and join Foster Grandparents today!

Program(s) Involved: Volunteer Network