President Jimmy Carter proclaimed in 1978 that National Grandparents Day should be celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day, according to the National Grandparent Day website. It’s a “time for grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide.”
Although the holiday doesn’t get the Hallmark hype it probably deserves, some do make a point to celebrate the special holiday, including Dallas non-profit agency The Senior Source.
This year, Senior Source is highlighting the services of East Dallas neighbor, 91-year-old Laura Watson, who has been volunteering with the agency as a Foster Grandparent since 1988.
The Foster Grandparent Program, federally funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), pairs low-income older adults with troubled, disabled or hospitalized children, with an emphasis on education and school readiness. Foster Grandparents give children 15-40 hours every week of warmth, kindness and attention at hospitals, homeless shelters, special care facilities and pre-school centers.
“Volunteers like Ms. Watson are the epitome of what a Foster Grandparent should be,” said Farahana Kassam, The Senior Source’s Foster Grandparent Program Director. “She is able to not only provide the love and support of a grandparent, but to ensure that children in need are exposed to vital life skills such as reading. That’s why we wanted to recognize her during National Grandparents Day, for all the goodwill she brings to our community.”
After retiring from a career in the mental health industry in 1980, Watson found herself with extra time on her hands. She learned about the Foster Grandparent Program and soon began her first placement working with visually impaired children. From there, she went on to volunteer at the low-birth rate ward at Children’s Medical Center.
Today, Watson volunteers four days a week from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Early Head Start program in East Dallas where she assists children from newborn to age three. She reads to them and plays with them on the playground, providing one-on-one attention that focuses on key areas such as social, emotional, and cognitive development, as well as language and reading skills.
“It’s the children that keep me alive,” says Watson. “Without those children, I would be solely focused on my age, but they keep me busy and active.”
The Foster Grandparent Program is open to individuals age 55 and older. All Grandparents serve 15-40 hours per week and receive 40 hours of training prior to placement and five additional hours of in-service training monthly and ongoing supportive informal training from program staff. To learn more about becoming a Foster Grandparent, call 214.823.5700.
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