Haley Burns and volunteer foster grandparent Charlotte Rosin listen Tuesday morning as Michayl Wilshusen takes his turn to read during one of Rosin's visits to Soldotna Elementary School. "I like to see how kids advance," Rosin said of the time she spends in the classroom. "It's nice to be able to help."
Photo by M. Scott Moon
It is no secret that elders are repositories of cultural knowledge, and a local organization is hoping to utilize the skills of the silver-haired sect of society to benefit youngsters.
"We're seeking volunteers, 60 years of age or older, for our Foster Grandparent Program," said Carole Garris, director of the Alaska Community Services Inc.'s Foster Grandparent Program.
The goal of the Foster Grandparent Program, much like the organization's Senior Companion Program, is to provide resources for senior volunteers to help Alaska youth, other seniors and the community-at-large.
Volunteers are currently being sought from the Kenai, Soldotna and Homer areas, as well as from Anchorage, and Garris said seniors have a lot to give, but also to gain, from their participation in the program.
"It's a win-win situation. It's good for seniors because it helps them get out and be active in the community. Most find it very rewarding," she said.
"It's good for the children because seniors have so much knowledge they can give to children that they can really make an impact on their lives, especially those children who don't have grandparents," she added.
Garris said there are other benefits to participating in the program as well.
"Volunteer receive a non-taxable stipend of $2.65 per hour. We pay $.36 cents per mile reimbursement for each mile driven to and from the school. We also have lots of paid holidays too," she said.
As to what seniors do with the children, Garris said specific school duties may vary, but it is largely the intergenerational relationship that is important.
"Foster grandparents go in the schools and day cares and help the teachers and the children. They may assist with building crafts, teaching children to read, or whatever else is needed. It's a lot of one-on-one," she said.
Interested volunteers should be willing to submit to a background check and be able to pass a general physical.
"The maximum volunteers will work is six hours a day, four to five days a week, but we're very flexible if people can only commit to four to five hours a day," Garris said.
To become a volunteer, or to learn more information about the Foster Grandparent Program, contact Carole Garris at (907) 375-2204.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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