By Debbie Basile
May is not only "Older Americans Month" but the week of May 19-23 was National Senior Corps Week, so the festivities began for Lutheran Foster Grandparent Program.
From left: Grandma Marvena McClinton, FGP of Love School who has served 11,022 lifetime hours, Gwenda Gatewood, FGP Project coordinator, Grandpa Robert “Bob” LeBarron, FGP from Pine Valley Central School, Grandma Donna Smith, FGP of Lincoln School, and Scott Burdick, principal at Pine Valley Elementary School.
Each year, elected officials and community leaders spotlight the impact of Senior Corps volunteers during Senior Corps Week. Jamestown's Mayor Sam Teresi paid tribute to Senior Corps by signing on to "Mayor's Day" on April 1, joining the 172 mayors across the country. Senior Corps volunteers were highlighted through service projects and recognition events with their elected officials who recognize the benefits and vital contributions that Senior Corps volunteers provide their communities.
First Lutheran Church Parlors hosted the annual FGP recognition event including a dinner catered and served by Sandee's Bakery. Foster Grandparents from the greater Jamestown area gathered alongside their teachers/site supervisors to praise the Foster Grandparents and revel in their accomplishments. Children assigned to a Foster Grandparent are matched by their teachers/site supervisors. The teachers/site supervisors pair the children to volunteers on the basis of need, being mindful of those who will benefit most from the one-on-one attention offered by a Foster Grandparent.
During 2013, 76 Lutheran Foster Grandparents served 63,889 hours working with 228 "in-need" children. Using Independent Sector's calculation, an hour of volunteer service nationally is valued at $22.65 per hour. However, in New York state, an hour is valued at $26.45, only to be surpassed in value by Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts. If you compute the number of hours served by the NYS volunteer rate, the Foster Grandparents provided the tri-county communities of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany with a workforce value of $1,689,864.
FGP had much to celebrate as many goals and targets for the children's performances were met or exceeded. Notable years of service were recognized (10 years and increments of five years) as some Foster Grandparents reached special milestones in service:
Angie Loughrey, 22 years
Sally Richir, 13 years
Marvena McClinton, 11 years
Donna Borstorff, 5 years
Donna Smith, 5 years
Mary Thompson, 5 years
The new volunteers welcomed to our program are Darlene Card - Ring School, Shirley Concepcion - A Children's Place, Myriam Diaz de Correa - Love School, Mary Lenna - Ring School, Ruth Loman - Jamestown Boys & Girls Club, Faye Pina - Randolph Central School, and Cynthia Woodruff - A Children's Place.
FGP began in 1965 as part of Senior Corps - a federal program guided by the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 1985, the project came to the Southern Tier counties of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany as an outreach program of Lutheran Social Services who graciously continues to be FGP's local sponsor.
FGP's mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. A Foster Grandparent provides a child "in need" with intensive, one-on-one attention, something not always possible for a teacher with a classroom full of students.
Teachers and child care providers report that children make academic progress, learn social skills and find a compassionate friend in the Foster Grandparent. Foster Grandparents are welcomed in child care centers, Head Start projects and elementary school classrooms.
If you are interested in joining the Foster Grandparent Program, please call Gwen Gatewood at 665-5354. New federal guidelines welcome seniors aged 55 plus of moderate income to enroll. If eligible, seniors receive a tax-free stipend, transportation assistance and the love and respect of the children they serve and the teachers they assist.