Foster Grandparents Are Role Models

Lincoln Elementary School UPK student, Stella Wilson, works with Grandma Jane from the Foster Grandparent Program. Submitted Photo

Jane Hughan, or Grandma Jane as the kids know her, worked with UPK students in Kim Knight’s class on writing their letters.

She explains what they will be doing, but just as importantly, she encourages them to draw the letter “a.” Grandma Jane, along with Grandma Bonnie Johnson who works with third graders in Heidi Maggio’s classroom, volunteer their time helping children through the Lutheran Foster Grandparent Program (FGP). Grandma Jane has been a foster grandparent for seven years and Grandma Bonnie for nine years. The Foster Grandparent Program currently has 20 volunteers in the Jamestown schools.

“Grandma Jane is a wonderful addition to the classroom,” said Mrs. Knight. “She is a warm smile and a loving person to all the students. The children look forward to working with her each day. They also love sitting with her at lunch while they eat and talk about their day. I can’t say enough about the Foster Grandparent Program and Grandma Jane. She is so much more than a volunteer. She is one of my best friends. She is a positive role model for the kids and their families.”

FGP is a federal program governed by the Corporation for National & Community Service.

The program’s goal is to bring together two populations – older adults with children with exceptional needs.

The focus is to establish a one-on-one relationship between a child and senior. Foster Grandparents are role models, mentors, and friends to children. Many times they are a constant adult in a child’s life and a good listener.

“When I retired, I was approached about becoming a foster grandparent,” said Grandma Bonnie. “I thought it sounded like a great idea and I’ve done it ever since. It is working on developing relationships with the kids. I think more people should consider volunteering as a foster grandparent as it would open their eyes to what is happening in the community. You might be able to guide a young life towards positive decision-making. I can’t imagine what else I’d be doing all day if I weren’t doing this. It’s very rewarding.”

Maggio loves having Grandma Bonnie in her class.

“The students adore her and treat Grandma Bonnie just like they do their own grandparents. When she walks in the classroom each day, they all want to hug her. If she has a prior obligation and can’t be with us on a particular day, the students all ask if she is feeling well, followed by, when will she return? It is really sweet how they adore her.”

In addition to nurturing a child, foster grandparents receive paid orientation, travel assistance, breakfast and lunch while working, accident and personal liability insurance and income-eligible individuals can earn a tax-free hourly stipend. The program provides a way for volunteers age 55 and over to stay active, serve their community, by engaging themselves with children and youth. If you are interested in becoming a foster grandparent, call FGP at 665-5354 to learn more.