Foster Grandparent Program could expand to El Dorado County
Senior citizens are being recruited by the El Dorado County Department of Community Services.
The department wants to launch a volunteer program that would partner seniors over 60 with younger peers who have special needs.
Carla Crawford, who directs the 25-year-old Foster Grandparent Program in Sacramento said the one-on-one attention given to children is an invaluable experience for both participants.
“Some volunteers have been volunteering the whole 25 years,” she said. “They would not be coming back for $2.55 an hour if that was all they were getting out of it.”
Seniors benefit from being a part of a “huge extended family,” Crawford said.
Volunteers in some participating Sacramento schools are fed a hot meal that they eat alongside the children, Crawford said.
“It really breaks down a lot of barriers,” she added.
The program was established to promote positive relationships between youths and seniors. Throughout the nation seniors have volunteered in schools, hospitals, drug treatment centers, correctional institutions and day-care centers.
Eligible volunteers receive a small, non-taxable stipend for donating their time. Those who live in households with a monthly income below $858 for one, or $1,152 for two, are eligible to receive $2.55 per hour for 20 hours of service each week.
Before seniors can volunteer they are required to take a TB test, have a criminal background check, attend an orientation, and participate in a monthly meeting, all of which are paid for as part of the program.
The Sacramento program is federally funded. El Dorado County will seek funds from the California Department of Aging because federal funding isn’t available.
Unlike typical student and teacher relationships, Crawford said seniors who volunteer at schools sit down with children and review test corrections on an individual basis.
The program matches student needs with volunteer abilities. If a volunteer speaks Spanish, for example, they will be able to teach basics like the alphabet and color recognition in their native language for a better level of understanding.
Ruth Green, volunteer coordinator of community services in Placerville, wants El Dorado County to participate in the program for the first time this year.
“We don’t have any volunteers yet,” Green said, but she is eager to find out how many seniors will be interested.
Susan Hansen, an instructional aide at Sierra House Elementary School in South Lake Tahoe, said she will be discussing the program with Green in the coming weeks. She is examining the possibility of that elementary school’s becoming the senior volunteer host site.
Hansen started a volunteer center at the school a few years ago and thinks the implementation of a senior program would be well-received. “I am looking forward to it,” she said.
Hansen said the senior volunteers would help children learn education fundamentals; math, reading and writing, science and history. Hansen would also like to teach seniors clerical skills in order to be able to assist teachers with tasks like copying.
She said students and seniors would benefit from the program. “They would both get so much out of it,” she said.
Parents and grandparents related to the students now make up the majority of volunteer staff. There is also a program designed for high school students to tutor kids.
Hansen wants to see what the project entails, but is optimistic at the possibility of such a program’s occurring at the school.
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