Foster grandparents program helps build relationships throughout the community

Foster grandparents changing lives at Jones Co. schools
Foster grandparents changing lives at Jones Co. schools((Photo source: WDAM))
Published: Feb. 6, 2019 at 6:49 AM EST
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Volunteers are needed for the New Hanover County foster grandparent program.

Foster grandparent volunteers are assigned to a school and classroom in the county to help children improve school readiness, skills, confidence and strength to succeed. Volunteers will be given a stipend of $2.65 an hour, mileage, meals, training, and volunteers recognition. To become a foster grandparent, you must be 55 or older, meet income eligibility requirements, complete a successful background check, and agree to volunteer at least 15 hours a week. Volunteers don’t have to live in New Hanover County to be a part of the program.

Right now, there are 28 volunteers, but the program is looking to add at least four-to-six more; men or women. It gives the senior volunteers a chance to give back and get out into the community, but they’re also getting financial support as they help support local children. The seniors are paired with a school and classroom that best fits their needs and then they are paired with three-to-five children in that classroom. The volunteers do anything from writing lessons, help with math, and going to lunch.

The foster grandparents program is part of the program for National Community Service which is federally funded. It started in 1965, but has been in New Hanover County since 1996.

Marian Johnson has been a volunteer for the program for 20 of the 23 years the program has been around.

“I really love what I do deeply” says Johnson. “Family, friends that know me, they probably get sick of me talking about the foster grandparent program.”

She calls them “my children.”

Johnson volunteers at Snipes Academy of Art in Design in Wilmington six hours a day, five days a week. She said after she retired, she found herself bored at home. She randomly picked up the newspaper one day and looked in the “wanted" add and spotted the NHC foster grandparent program.

Johnson’s husband became ill and passed away and she says the children helped get her through that hard time of in life.

“It kept me going and it still keeps me going today because there are a lot of times you feel like you want to give up because there is a lot of pressure or things happening or you go to bed and the next morning you don’t want to give up. But when I think of the foster grandparent program, and the babies down at Snipes Academy, it’s a joy and it’s a blessing” says Johnson.

Last year, over 170 students were involved with the program and 100% of them went on to the next grade level. The volunteers gave over 33,000 hours last year alone.

“That really is a true testament of definitely the school system, but also that extra help that the foster grandparent program is providing and that support” NHC Senior Resource Center Director Amber Smith tells WECT.

Johnson and Smith encourage anyone who may be considering becoming a volunteer should reach out.

If you or someone you know would like to be a part of the New Hanover County foster grandparent program, please call 910-798-6407 for more information.

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