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Foster Grandparents for OACAC Celebrate 40 Years of Service

Tuesday, the Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation, or OACAC, is recognizing the Foster Grandparent Programs for 40 years of service to area children. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann talked with members of the program to learn more about what it means to be a foster grandparent.

For most people, the idea of grandparents stirs up warm feelings and memories.  Grandparents are often synonymous with holidays, homemade cookies and lots of hugs.   Wilma Jackson is one grandma with adult grandchildren of her own, great grandchildren and even three great-great grandchildren.  Yet she still has more love to give, and so she decided to become a foster grandma.

“Well, my husband passed away and I didn’t have much to do but sit and watch television.  I had heard about the grandparent program, so I checked into it.  It’s just a rewarding job,” Jackson says.

Jackson has been with the foster grandparent program for the last eight years and says she really enjoys it.  She first started as a grandparent working in the Head Start program, a program for at-risk pre-school aged children. However, she says it is when she began working at the Boy’s Ranch that Jackson knew she was where she belonged.

“What I do, I talk to the boys if they need to talk to me about something.  And if they need a hug, I give them a hug, because that’s what grandmas do.  Out here some of these boys have never had a hug because some of them don’t have grandparents.  Some of them have been left by their parents,” says Jackson.

The Boys Ranch and Head Start are just a few of the places that foster grandparents are found.  They also serve in public and private schools, residential homes, after school programs, day cares, and schools for the severely disabled.  Alice Wingo is a spokesperson for the OACAC.

“Sometimes people hear the name and they assume, because it is talking about fostering a child, that it’s bringing a child into their own home.  And that’s not at all what this program is about.  As a foster grandparent, they are going to a site and the kids are there already.  They have teachers taking care of them and other adults in the room.  The foster grandparents are there just to love on them,” Wingo says.

Wingo says there are around 65 volunteers serving 14 counties in southwest Missouri.  She says they are always looking for more volunteers, especially in Laclede and Stone counties.  Volunteers must be at least 55 years old, able to make a 15 to 20 hour a week commitment, and have transportation.

The 40thanniversary celebration is Tuesday, July 17 from 1-3pm at the OACAC at 215 South Barnes in Springfield.  The celebration will include presentations by Senator Bob Dixon and Representative Melissa Leach, followed by music by Wayne Cooper.  The event is open to the public, and Wingo says it’s a great opportunity for perspective volunteers to learn more about the program.  For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.