Volunteer Grandmas Fill a Special Place in Class for These Dallas Preschoolers

Being a volunteer grandma is good for you. That's what an independent, federally financed study reveals.It's also good for the little ones being nurtured by the foster grandparents. That's what the broad smiles on the faces of preschoolers at a southern Dallas Head Start center reveal."The benefits really do work both ways," says Triste Vasquez-White, director of the Foster Grandparent Program administered locally by the Senior Source, a nonprofit clearinghouse for programs that serve older residents of Dallas County."Our volunteer grandparents get to do something helpful for the community. It's so much better for them than sitting at home watching television. And the kids they work with get to spend time with an older adult who can help them develop needed social and emotional skills."How it works The Foster Grandparent Program, established in 1965, is part of the Senior Corps, a national effort to enlist older Americans in programs that help them while helping their communities.In Dallas, the program pairs low-income senior volunteers with preschoolers, also typically from low-income families, at dozens of locations, from Head Start centers to private academies to nonprofits throughout the city. The seniors assist staff members at the organizations where they're assigned by helping with classroom assignments, passing out snacks, teaching their young charges how to tie their shoes and offering a loving hug on those mornings when sadness or loneliness spill out in tears."We're teachers, we're counselors, grandparents -- whatever it takes us to be for our children, that's what we have to be," says June Robinson, a foster grandparent at the Wanda Meshack Smith Head Start Center near Interstate 20 and U.S. 67.Robinson, 70, has been a foster grandparent for four years. She works at the Head Start center with her sister, Loretta Stovall, 80, who's been in the foster program for eight years.  Continue reading...

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