Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Foster Grandparents: A Gift to Our Communities Written by Laura Schwarz, Foster Grandparent Program Intern

Despite its swirling snow and glistening icicles, the month of December is always associated with the warmth and cheer of the Holiday season. But this year, as the economy continues its unceasing and unpredictable slide, more and more people will be forced to reduce or even give up their usual seasonal traditions. Under such circumstances, it is easy to succumb to the gloom of December’s sharp winds and frigid temperatures.

Luckily, one particular group of people hasn’t given up on the Holiday spirit of good will and hope for the future. On these dark chilly mornings, the women and men of the Central Minnesota Foster Grandparent Program can be found diligently scraping their car windshields or waiting patiently at bus stops. They are on their way to schools, childcare centers, residential facilities, and other nonprofit agencies, where they will spend a sizable portion of their days working with children who have special, emotional, or exceptional needs.

These outstanding volunteers, all age 60 or better, give 15 to 40 hours each week to create meaningful mentoring relationships with these children. For these children, the Foster Grandparents provide gifts that are more meaningful than anything they might find in their stockings: love, friendship, and compassion. Foster Grandparents offer the one-on-one attention that teachers might not always be able to supply, listening when the children need to talk and providing the positive influence of an older adult.

Through their service, the Foster Grandparents are also giving a gift to our entire community. Their work with our children is an investment in the future, a physical embodiment of the belief that the future can and will be a brighter place. By inspiring and motivating the youngest generations, our older volunteers are ensuring that these young people will care for themselves and for our world as they grow older and take responsibility for our collective futures.

This is especially admirable when most of the Foster Grandparent volunteers will not even see the long-term results of their gifts. As a Greek proverb states, “A society grows great when we plant trees whose shade we know we shall never sit in.” The Foster Grandparents might not actually witness their first-graders growing up to become contributing members of society, but it will be because of their dedication and love that these children will have the confidence and ability to do so.

Foster Grandparents are shaping the world into a better place, a place where warmth radiates in spite of financial difficulties, or where those difficulties vanish altogether, swept up the chimney by a roaring and comforting fire.
Happy Holidays from the Foster Grandparent Program!

For more information about the Central Minnesota Foster Grandparent Program, please contact Pat Scherf at 1-320-293-0682 or

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