By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
Taking on the role of foster grandmother at Sandbox Learning Center was a natural transition for Ella Loggins.
Loggins grew up in Enid before she moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., where she was a transit bus driver for many years. She raised two daughters and a son and is now grandmother of 10.
It was the call to help her family that brought her back to Enid at 58.
“When my mother got sick, I came back to Enid to take care of my mother,” Loggins said.
In addition, she cared for an ailing aunt. Five years later, it was time for Loggins to find something else to fill her time. In the spring of 2006, she signed up for the Foster Grandparents program.
“I always had a house full of kids, so this took up that space,” Loggins said.
At Sandbox, she works with 14 to 16 kids, ages 3 to 6, helping them with art projects, teaching them to write their names and birth dates, boosting their social skills and in other ways helping get them ready to go to school.
As Loggins spoke on a recent day at Sandbox, a 3-year-old who only recently started coming to the day care center and preschool came over to her for a spot of comfort because he was missing his mommy.
“I solve all problems,” Loggins said, wisely.
The tots sit in her lap, hug her, give her reports on their accomplishments and show off their new knowledge.
“Grandma, I went potty,” one tells her.
“Grandma, I’m wearing blue,” another said.
Loggins gave a moment’s personal attention to each of them in turn.
Seeing the children and being involved in their lives gives Loggins a sense of purpose, she said.
“It’s something to get up for in the morning,” Loggins said. “Something to be on your mind to do. It really keeps you from getting old.”
Loggins said she encourages other people to get involved in the Foster Grandparent program.
“Foster Grandparents is a wonderful place to work,” Loggins said. “I’ll probably be here another 20 years.”
Meeting children’s needs
Susie Daniels, program director for the Area 1 Foster Grandparent program, said volunteers work with youths through fifth grade in Enid and regional schools.
“We are assisting children by meeting their academic needs in the schools and helping prepare 4-year-olds to get them ready for kindergarten,” Daniels said.
Daniels said children’s reading skills improve when a grandparent works with them, and their confidence and pride in going to school is boosted.
In the elementary schools, the foster grandparents often work on the students’ reading comprehension, according to Daniels. It’s an arrangement that offers benefits for everyone involved, she said.
“The volunteers love being in the classroom, the children benefit from that extra assistance and the teachers are very appreciative of having extra hands,” Daniels said. “I have so much pride in our senior population and how they can meet community needs.”
Area I Foster Grandparent Program requires participants to be 55 or older, enjoy working with children, be in reasonably good health and able to serve a minimum of 15 hours per week.
Benefits include a tax-free $2.65 per hour stipend if income eligible, paid leave and holidays, a free annual physical, transportation assistance and a free daily meal.
For information about Foster Grandparents, contact the program at 548-8900 or toll free at (800) 522-1064.