Foster Grandparents Leave Lasting Impression On Students

By: Lindsey Rogers Email
By: Lindsey Rogers Email

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (WIBW) -- Virginia Gfeller has 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren of her own but she’s been a like a grandmother to countless children.

Grandma Ginny, as she’s called, has volunteered with the Foster Grandparent Program for nine years and works with students at Westwood Elementary School in Junction City.

"The foster grandparents are focused on at-risk children in the schools. They do tutoring and mentoring in the classroom, they work one on one reading with children. One thing that’s nice about our program is, it’s not like they’re spending one hour a week. They are spending anywhere from 15-40 hours a week in the classroom with the children. The schools benefit. The teachers benefit. It’s a win-win program for everybody," explained Suesan Harrington, Program Director for Foster Grandparent Program.

"I hope they are enjoying it and they always seem to be very receptive when I come in and want to give me a hug. They’re very loving...
It gives me something to get up for every day and I come home and tell my husband all the things that have gone on and we both enjoy it that way," Grandma Ginny said.

Locally, the program is sponsored by the North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging and headquartered in Manhattan. There are nearly 40 foster grandparents serving in Riley County, Geary County, Saline County and Dickinson County and thousands more serving in schools across the country.

"I’m a strong supporter of the Foster Grandparent Program. We’ve had it here at Westwood for at least nine years if not possibly more and I think it is important because it provides opportunities for our children to develop a relationship with another adult who cares and wants to support them and it’s an inter-generational opportunity which I think is beneficial for the children who require some extra support and the grandparents because it gives them an opportunity to be with young people," said Shelley Hoyle Kite, principal of Westwood Elementary School.

"Each day, it’s different and that’s what I like because each child, of course, is different and we do something different each day and it’s just very rewarding for me to come home and think over the past day what we’ve done and what the children have given to me," added Grandma Ginny. She says she's built strong, lasting relationships with the students she has mentored over the years.

The Foster Grandparent Program (FGP), which began nationwide in 1965, provides loving and experienced tutors and mentors ages 55+ to children and youth with special needs. Administered nationwide by the Corporation for National and Community Service, more than 29,000 Foster Grandparents nationwide have served more than 232,000 children, providing support in schools, hospitals, drug treatment centers, correctional institutions, and child care centers.


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