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Foster grandparents sought

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POLSON—The Western Montana Area 6 Agency on Aging seeks low-income seniors that wish to make a difference in the lives of Mission Valley youth. The Agency currently has nine positions open for their Foster Grandparent Program, part of national and federally funded Senior Corps volunteer program. A volunteer must be 55 years or older, be able to work a minimum of 15 hours per week, and have a desire to be a role model in order to be eligible for this particular program.

The Foster Grandparent Program seeks to offer supportive services to children while providing a meaningful opportunity to seniors as well. Grandparents can be placed in classrooms at schools or at after school organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club. Nationally the program has assisted more than 30,000 children since 1965.

“You do not have to be a teacher, a counselor, or have a master’s degree, the children just need someone. If we want our community to be better, shouldn’t we invest?” said Micky Snyder, director of the Foster Grandparent Program. 

Foster grandparents are good listeners, able to teach life and social skills, and provide guidance to children that may need the extra attention. The program offers a tax-free, monthly stipend of $200 (which doesn't affect your public assistance such as SNAP or TANK income),  paid days off, various trainings, and a sense of community. 

Kristen Wilson, a fourth grade teacher at Linderman Elementary School in Polson, has had a foster grandparent in her room for at least 10 years. 

“Grandparents can come in and be the love. Every grandparent I’ve had, has done better for themselves as well,” Wilson said. 

The Boys and Girls Club in Ronan has had the same grandparent for about 10 years. Grandma Evonne Wall has been there longer than any of the employees and helps with everything from math homework to art, and assists other volunteers. 

“She has been with the program the longest. Because she has been there so long, she is a great resource for the staff,” said Katie Harding, director of operations at the Boys and Girls Club.

Grandma G has been a volunteer for 16 years and was the second recruit for the program in Polson. She has worked in Gail Burghardt’s third grade class for the majority of those years. She helps with reading, games, and math. She discussed what her original motivation was for becoming a foster grandparent.

“I was widowed and sitting around not doing anything. I talked with an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) and here I am today. It’s my fun time; I really enjoy time with the kids,” Grandma G said. 

An open house was held Dec. 9 to inform the public of the volunteer opportunities. In a show of support, Area 6 Agency staff, community teachers, foster grandparents and Polson Mayor Heather Knutson attended. If the nine positions are not filled, funding for the Foster Grandparent Program could be cut for western Montana. While the Agency always appreciates volunteers of any demographic, they are specifically seeking low-income seniors. For more information, please contact Micky Snyder, Director of the Foster Grandparent Program, at: 406-883-7284. 

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