The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

July 28, 2013

Foster grandparents can make a big difference in the lives of little children

ENID, Okla. — The late Alex Haley, author of the groundbreaking novel “Roots,” once said “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”

Besides sprinkling stardust, members of Area 1 Foster Grandparent program also make a difference in the lives of many Enid-area children.

During the past school year, 64 volunteer foster grandparents helped 902 students in this area, their duties ranging from helping students learn by quizzing them with flash cards and listening to them read, to simply being there to listen to the children’s joys and concerns.

Foster grandparents spend between 15 and 40 hours per week helping children improve their physical, mental, social and academic development; giving of their time and talent; and sharing hugs and happiness.

Between October 2012 and May 2013, the Area 1 Foster Grandparent program sent volunteers to 42 schools and provided 46,226 volunteer hours.

As state school superintendent Janet Barresi said during a recent event honoring volunteers in the Area 1 Foster Grandparent program, they often provide the only steady adult presence in a child’s life.

A number of area school children live in poverty, and more than half of them only have one adult in the home.

That makes the presence of a foster grandparent especially vital to these children.

Foster grandparents must be age 55 or older, must enjoy children and must be in reasonably good health.

Volunteers receive a free daily meal and transportation allowance, and may qualify for a tax-free hourly stipend.

But they get much more than that out of the program.

“I can assure you,” Barresi told the gathering, “it’s mutually beneficial.”

Foster grandparents are helping lay the foundation for the future of hundreds of students in our area.

Educational success begins in the early grades, where foster grandparents are working to make a difference.

If you know a foster grandparent, thank them.

If you would like to become one, call (580) 548-8900 or (800) 522-1064, and start sprinkling a bit of stardust of your own.

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