More foster grandparents needed in West Michigan

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — A program is looking for older adults to volunteer in classrooms and serve as role models for young people. 

The National Foster Grandparent Program of the Corporation for National Community Service offers limited-income seniors opportunities to help students in the classroom. The program currently serves over 700 students in Muskegon, Lake and Newaygo counties. However, there are just under 100 foster grandparents.

Beth Scheel, senior core director at Catholic Charities of West Michigan, says more volunteers are needed in the classroom.

“It’s very important. Our teachers in the school request a volunteer and unfortunately, at this time, we don’t have a volunteer for every classroom,” Scheel said. “Classrooms today are anywhere from 25 to 30 students per teacher. If you can imagine students, with behavior or learning issues or just need that extra hand in the classroom, our volunteers are utilized to really help the teacher.”

Deanna Mcdonald is a first-grade teacher at Edgewood Elementary Academy in Muskegon Heights, which is one of the schools foster grandparents help daily. She says the volunteers take a load off her shoulders.

“I’m only one person with 25 students, so any extra adult is wonderful,” Mcdonald said. “It gives a lot of the students more opportunities to have one-on-one attention.”

Ronnie Cox, who has been volunteering as a foster grandparent for years, goes by “grandpa” in the halls of Edgewood Elementary. Cox says seeing the children react to him and other foster grandparents make it all worth it.

“You can see how it brightens their lives,” Cox said. “They get so full of life. It’s ‘grandpa, grandpa, I can do this,’ or ‘I can do that.’ It’s all day that they come to me.”

Catholic Charities of West Michigan say they are in desperate need of more men because many of the children the program serves lack positive male role models.

“This might be the only hug they get, or it might be the only personal attention, one-on-one that they get throughout their day,” Scheel said.

To get involved, applicants must be at least 55 and commit to at least 10 hours a week. Volunteers are paid a stipend for their service and reimbursed for gas mileage.

For more information, call Catholic Charities West Michigan at 231.727.4140.

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