Foster grandparent program provides inspiration, comfort

Volunteers say working with youth is beneficial for both sides

Elaine Ezerins

By Elaine Ezerins

Staff Writer

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“It gives me a place to go, to do things. I’m not a bingo person.”

ST. ALBANS — After her husband’s passing last year, Rose Baker Johnson, 77, wasn’t sure how to spend her days.

“I was just sitting home, wondering what I was going to do with my life,” she said.

Johnson found inspiration in a news article describing the local Foster Grandparent program, through the United Way of Northwest Vermont, and its need for volunteers.

The Foster Grandparent program provides an opportunity for adults age 55 and older to remain engaged in the community, earn supplemental income and help children with critical needs by providing the kind of comfort and nurturing that sets a child on the path toward a successful future.

In a short period of time, Johnson was connected with program coordinator Mary Pelkey and placed at Y’s Time Children’s Center in St. Albans for the summer.

“The kids just took to me,” she said. They would read books, play games and go for walks together. “It just gave me something to get up in the morning for,” she continued. When summer ended and Pelkey suggested she work at St. Albans City School in the Kindergarten, Johnson said she was hesitant at first.

“I’m old school,” she said, and was unsure if she could keep up with the academic side of things. Johnson said she decided to just try it and see how things went.

“So I did and I love it,” she said. “I love the kids.”

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