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The Washtenaw County Foster Grandparent Program honored 44 senior volunteers at the “Mahalo Moments” luncheon for their service. The event featured many fun opportunities for honorees including traditional Polynesian dancers, a themed menu, and fun photo-ops.
Started in 1965, the Foster Grandparent Program aims to connect income-eligible seniors with schools, daycares, and other youth centers throughout the country. Seniors in the program provide direct educational support and mentorship to special-needs youth. In 2022, Grandparents served 38,457 hours with most Grandparents serving 20 or more hours every week at one of 19 different educational sites. Foster Grandparents participating in the program receive a financial stipend, transportation assistance, training, and professional development.
Sandy Bowers, Foster Grandparent Program Specialist, shared, “The Foster Grandparents have an immeasurable impact on our community’s youth. At the end of the day, Grandparents provide comfort and love that sets children up for success.”
At the event, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Chair Justin Hodge presented the program with a declaration formally recognizing the service of volunteers. Additionally, Bowers presented program veteran Shawkey Ghobrial with the Outstanding Service Award. Ghobrial has been with the Foster Grandparent Program for 20 years serving at several educational sites throughout the county.
“Foster Grandparents form special bonds with the children that are mutually beneficial. Our seniors love the program, and many have been with us for 10 or more years,” Bowers added.
Each Foster Grandparent volunteer got a moment in the spotlight at the luncheon, as each was presented with a certificate acknowledging them for their time served. With the theme “Mahalo Moments”, the event aimed to say thank you and give volunteers the chance to have fun and share stories, smiles, and laughs.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many volunteer sites transitioned to online services. Foster Grandparents were willing and flexible to adapt to necessary changes and remained active and engaged with the program. In 2022, programming was back to full operation with some sites remaining virtual giving volunteers the ability to continue if they needed accommodations.
The Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development sponsors the Foster Grandparent Program. Operating 55 years, the Washtenaw Program is one of the longest serving programs in Michigan.
If you are interested in learning more about the Foster Grandparent Program, please visit www.washtenaw.org/fgp or contact Sandy Bowers at [email protected].