Perfect Partnership

The Foster Grandparents Program found itself with an array of books specialized for elementary students and an eager group of interested volunteers wishing to serve during the summer months.

In the summer months, many Foster Grandparents serving children in the school setting no longer have their placements due to the summer recess and summer school classes not offered in the Jamestown area.

FGP first sought out the advice of Patrick Cunningham, Advisory Council member, who is a teacher at Love School who works with families of children entering Pre-K with existing siblings in the school system.

The program asked, “How can we engage these volunteers? There is not any summer school session scheduled, and is there any formal educational program for elementary students?”

After brainstorming and further investigation, it was suggested perhaps the Prendergast Library could use some extra hands and engage the Foster Grandparents during the summer. FGP contacted the library, and the two groups met.

FGP then presented their plans and goals, and then asked how it could help the library.

The Prendergast Summer Reading Program and their summer schedule seemed a perfect match for FGP and a partnership was formed. In summer 2013, as well as this year, FGP successfully placed three Foster Grandparents at the Boys and Girls Club Day Camp reading to children so the group had experienced prior to the agreement. The Prendergast Library welcomed FGP volunteers into the Children’s Room. Liz Gruber dotes on Foster Grandmas and Foster Grandpas as they work one-on-one with children to improve their reading skills.

The FGP purchased materials with New York State Office for the Aging funds, but looked towards the community’s help to assemble “Grandma or Grandpa” bags. Falconer Rotary sponsored the purchase of tote bags equipped with every size pocket you can imagine. Next, the program needed items to fill the pockets such as books, paper, pencils, pens and crayons – furnishing whatever may help a Foster Grandparent to work with children. Lutheran supplied pens and pencils, Independent Health donated pens, Hospice donated more pens, and Chautauqua Adult Day Care Inc. offered paper – as a result, volunteers were prepared with tools to use with the kids. The library staff offered their service to oversee and assign the volunteers.

The next step was how to draw or invite children to the library. Foster Grandparents were already asking their assigned children they worked with during the school year to come and see them at the library. Cunningham, as part of his responsibilities at the Jamestown Community Learning Council, works with families during the summer months and also refers children to the library. The Summer Reading Program with all its prizes is already a draw for area children to come and read.

It took many participating partners to make this adventure, but it worked. There are Foster Grandparents assisting at the library offering an intergenerational approach to learning, augmenting existing programs, individuals placed wanting summer assignments and children being engaged one-on-one to by a mature adult helping them to read and learn. FGP is grateful to all our partners who cooperatively and collaboratively helped this happen and thanked the community.

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 or older 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.

FGP is a federal program funded and guided by the Corporation for National and Community Services. It is funded by New York State Office for the Aging, and Lutheran has been a benevolent sponsor since 1983.