To the children at Moody Air Force Base Child Development Center, the nine volunteers from the Senior Volunteer Connection Foster Grandparent Program are all “Grandma,” and the volunteers wouldn’t have it any other way.
Gloria Wright, a Foster Grandparent in the two to three-year-old room, loves how the children greet her every morning with hugs and smiles. “My [own] kids are not local, so it brings me joy to have the kids call me grandma”, she says. “Even after the children transition to another classroom, they still come over and give me a hug,” adds Mary Porter, who works with the six-months to one-year-olds.
The Grandmas play an invaluable role at the Center, working one-on-one with the infants and toddlers to develop and improve the children’s motor, language, and social skills. As a child’s mother or father approaches deployment, the volunteers’ work becomes even more critical.
Children understandably experience separation anxiety leading up to and during a parent’s deployment. That’s when the Grandmas do what only a grandparent can. They help the children get through the difficult period by listening and nurturing, reading and hugging, and providing a consistent and stable presence while one parent – and sometimes both – serves abroad.
The Grandmas provide support to the military spouses, too. Since the families assigned to Moody Air Force Base come from all over the country, extended family members often live far away. The Foster Grandparents become a part of the family, sharing the joys of first steps and first words and providing much-needed emotional support to military spouses.
But the military families are not the only beneficiaries of the program. Grandma Betty Stafford assists with the children aged six-months to one-years-old. “It brightens my day to receive so much love and affection from the children,” she says.
Grandma Durine Jones, who has served as a Foster Grandparent since 2007, says both the staff and the children call her Grandma, adding, “There is not another job I would rather have.”
Frances Swinson echoes that sentiment, “Of all the occupations I have participated in,” she says, “serving as a Foster Grandparent is the best.”
The Foster Grandparent Program is a federally-funded volunteer program with the Corporation for National and Community Service - Senior Corps. Foster Grandparents have been tutoring and mentoring at-risk children since 1965.
Zach Rhein is a Program Officer with Senior Corps at the Corporation for National and Community Service.