One wouldn't expect to see a 90-year-old wandering the corridors of Remann Hall, a juvenile detention center in Tacoma, WA. However, Del Rotan, a World War II veteran, has made Remann Hall his “second home,” mentoring at-risk youth at the facility for 16 years as a foster grandparent.
Tired of sitting in his house by himself with little communication with others, Rotan contacted the Department of Social and Health Services to find out about participating in the Foster Grandparent Program (now operated by Catholic Community Services).
The Foster Grandparent Program, which began nationwide in 1965, provides loving and experienced tutors and mentors ages 55+ to children and youth with special needs.
More than 29,000 Foster Grandparent nationwide have served more than 232,000 children, providing support in schools, hospitals, drug treatment centers, correctional institutions, and child care centers.
In Pierce and Thurston Counties, there are more than 35 foster grandparents who serve locally at childcare centers, Head Start preschools, elementary schools, and the Boys and Girls Club afterschool programs.
“I thought if I could help someone, that would make life more fulfilling,” said Rotan.
Rotan connected with Remann Hall in 1995 as a foster grandparent, originally agreeing to volunteer for six months. Now he has been with the program for 16 years.
Over the last 16 years, Rotan has volunteered in almost every capacity available at Remann Hall, from providing counseling for drug abuse to supporting at-risk youth.
“I find the most rewarding task has been working directly with the at-risk youth who are entering Remann Hall for the first time,” he said.
Rotan is the first person that new juveniles meet upon arrival, a friendly and nonthreatening figure who provides vital support to young offenders who may be nervous. He works as a kind of guide for the children, explaining the court procedures, giving tours of the facility, and answering any questions they and their families may have.
“There are too many success stories to count. Some return to Remann Hall as they grow older to visit staff, speak to children currently being held at the facility, and volunteer,” said Rotan.
“It's really great to see they got their lives on track, sustaining happy and healthy lives with their families, attending school, and becoming successful citizens. These stories are the greatest reward of volunteering.”