This article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
In a world where the embrace of a caring community is more crucial than ever, the Foster Grandparent Program by Wesley Family Services helps create nurturing bonds for schoolchildren in southwestern Pennsylvania. Additionally, senior volunteer participants enjoy the opportunity to serve with purpose and devotion, guiding students toward a brighter future.
Conceived by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, the Foster Grandparent Program emerged as a platform to bridge the wisdom and warmth of elder citizens with the needs of the community. As an integral part of AmeriCorps Seniors, this program extends across six counties: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene and Washington, all overseen by Wesley Family Services.
The magic of this program lies in its heartfelt pairings — a symphony of experience and innocence, where individuals aged 55 and above are matched with youngsters, from newborns to those blossoming into adulthood. With unwavering dedication, these volunteers provide a unique form of guidance, offering personalized attention that help support and fuel scholastic and personal growth. Program Director Rebecca Maletto-Cornell beautifully encapsulates this sentiment: “They become the extra eyes, the gentle hands, and the nurturing hearts that help a child become their truest and best self.”
The spectrum of assistance offered by these grandparent figures is as diverse as the children they embrace. From aiding with academic growth to imparting vital life skills, these volunteers carve pathways for holistic development. Through their patient guidance, they sow seeds of self-worth and a positive self-image, all the while cultivating connections that are frequently lacking.
Beneath the surface, the Foster Grandparent Program enriches the elder participants as well. Beyond the tangible stipends and material benefits, these volunteers find themselves transformed. As they watch the children they’ve nurtured flourish, they experience a rekindling their own vitality.
The heartwarming tales that emerge from the program bear testament to its enduring impact. With every story shared, it becomes evident that the Foster Grandparent Program extends beyond the classroom, enfolding participants, staff, teachers and volunteers alike into a tight-knit family. Bonds are forged, and relationships blossom, creating a supportive community where everyone thrives together.
Remarkably, the effects of this program ripple outwards, touching lives in ways unforeseen. Physical health improves, spirits lift, and feelings of isolation dissipate, as participants find solace in shared experiences and a united purpose. Maletto-Cornell reflects on the remarkable transformations she’s witnessed: “It’s not just the children who flourish within those walls. The volunteers find renewed purpose, and a profound sense of fulfillment uplifts the spirits of all involved.”
In the delicate tapestry woven by the Foster Grandparent Program, young hearts find unwavering support, older souls rediscover purpose, and the community flourishes with newfound connections. This heartwarming initiative stands as a testament to the timeless power of compassion and the enduring bonds between generations, fostering an atmosphere where love, growth and resilience intertwine.
To learn more about the remarkable AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent Program and discover ways to get involved, please reach out at 412-660-6841 or 412-660-7303. Further information is available at fostergrandparents.wfspa.org.