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A Few Great Grandparents: Giving Back to Military Kids

by Kate Enos

It's no secret that personal attention in the classroom can deliver big results on a report card. For children of military families, that extra kindness can be even more crucial. Frequent moves and the stress caused by having a parent on deployment can take a toll. But a special group of military kids in Dover, DE is getting a little support from a few great Grandparents.

Not just any Grandma or Grandpa, the Grandparents at work in Dover are Foster Grandparents – older adults willing to serve as an adult role model. These adopted family members go the extra mile to help the children succeed, inside the classroom and out.

At Major George S. Welch Elementary School on Dover Air Force Base, Foster Grandparents are providing a little extra love and attention to help their students weather the trials of military deployment.

Ruth Riddick has been a Foster Grandparent for 11 years, but this is her first serving at a school on a military base. "I am there for the students who need someone to talk to. I don't know what is going on at home, but I want to be a stable force in their lives and be trusted figure when so much is going on in their lives," said Riddick.

For Riddick, volunteering as a Foster Grandparent is an opportunity to serve her country and give back to military personnel and their families, who experience stresses many civilians never encounter. It's also allowed her to make some new friends. "I have found these children to be remarkably independent and disciplined. They have been such a pleasure to work with.” said Riddick.

Heidi Wuller, a school counselor at Welch Elementary shares Riddick's view, "Most often, children of military families do not have the advantage of living close to a grandparent, and multiple moves and temporary deployments can be part of the military lifestyle," said Wuller. "Having a nurturing person who can come into the school and get to know the children in the classroom setting is a uniting force for all involved."

The Foster Grandparent Program began in 1965, and is administered nationwide by the Corporation for National and Community Service through Senior Corps.

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