MAMMOTH SPRING -- One generation has met another this school year in Mammoth Spring School District
A new program, the Foster Grandparent Program, began at the school last month and so far, students, staff and grandparents have benefited from the experience.
The elementary school has two grandparents, Mary Pierce and Shirley Wilson, who come to the school a half day, five days a week to help students.
According to Carol Burnett of the White River Area Agency on Aging, the Foster Grandparent Program was first begun 38 years ago in Arkansas. The local program covers a 10 county area and currently 87 volunteers work at the 27 school districts involved in the program. Viola School District in western Fulton County also participates in the program with three grandparent volunteers.
Burnett said volunteers need to be over 60 years of age and be able to volunteer 20 hours a week. "And they, of course, must love children," she said.
Burnett said there are several benefits to the seniors who become foster grandparents, including pre-service orientation and monthly training sessions, an annual physical examination, supplemental insurance, a small stipend for those who qualify, help with meals and transportation costs, "and the joy of knowing you are making a difference for children," Burnett said.
The program comes easy to Pierce, who is a grandmother and great-grandmother. "I've always enjoyed younger kids," Pierce said. She is retired after working for many years at Thayer News and Shady Oaks Healthcare. Pierce is 77 years young.
Wilson is 63 and is retired after working for 13 years at Lee's Curtain Factory in Thayer. "I'm learning right along with the kids. They are such a joy," Wilson said.
Both grandparents said they have grown from the program and will be there next year if they are able.
Elementary principal Ruth Stevens said she is excited and pleased about the program and hopes more seniors will get involved.