The Foster Grandparents Program of Eastern Idaho is celebrating 40 years of service.
Seventy-five seniors are helping kids in our local elementary schools, but the program is in serious need of more volunteers.
Who could make a better “Great Neighbor” than someone who volunteers at a neighborhood school? We caught up with a couple of champion foster grandparents at A.H. Bush Elementary School in Idaho Falls.
They're making a huge difference in the lives of these children.
"They're really nice,” said student Daria Hathaway of “Grandma Lilly” and “Grandma Jeanne.” “They won't yell at us, and they're not mean to us."
Jeanne Stevenson and Lily Maxfield donate 15 hours a week reading, working on math problems and hugging kids. This does not appear to be a burden to them.
"Every day you walk down the hall, and it's 'Hi, Grandma,' and hugs galore!" said Stevenson.
“A million hugs a day!” said Maxfield.
Everyone wants to hug the grandmas – even the administration.
"It's always wonderful to have extra adults in the school,” said Principal Sarah Sanders. “Grandparents with their life experiences are always so patient. They empathize with our students, they understand and they're great listeners."
“She helps us if we're stuck on a word, too,” said student Jaysa Paulsen.
The director of Foster Grandparents said she needs at least 15 more volunteers. She says some seniors are intimidated. They're afraid they'll do something wrong and mess a kid up.
“Being a positive role model, giving those kids that little bit of encouragement and support, a lot of times that's all they need,” said Director Lori Murdock.
These experienced foster grandmas say there's nothing like seeing a concept take hold in a child's mind.
“And then when you're doing something like this, and the light hits them and you can see it in their eyes. It just swells you up like, 'Whoa. I've made a difference,” said Stevenson.
“All of a sudden they just see it and it's, 'I know, Grandma, I know,'” said Maxfield.
If you fall within a certain income bracket, you'll actually be paid a small stipend too. So there's a little bit of extra income to supplement Social Security. Consider being a Great Neighbor and volunteering as a foster grandparent.
You have to be 55 “or better” to volunteer, as foster grandparents say. Call Lori Murdock at (208) 785-8454 for more information.