Senior citizens serve their communities

PARKERSBURG – Sharon Wilson said joining the Foster Grandparent Program to lend a helping in the community was a family tradition for her.

Wilson, who has been in the program for two years, said her mother was a foster grandparent for many years.

“I work at Fairplains School, reading to the children, listening to them read, helping them with their math and general things to help the teacher. The kids are so much fun. I really enjoy the interaction with the children,” Wilson said.

Wilson was among those being recognized for their service to the community this week as part of Senior Corps Week in conjunction with Older Americans Month. Seniors in the Foster Grandparent, Retired Senior Volunteer and Senior Companion Programs at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council were honored with a gathering and certificates of service this week.

Peggy Cooper said she “retired” from being a foster grannie at a local school, but still enjoys going back to visit the children, teachers and administrators. “We’re like family,” she said. Cooper said she loves getting hugs from the the children who often call out to her at stores, or come up to say hello when she’s out at restaurants.

“The Foster Grandparent Program is a fantastic program and I would recommend it to anyone. Foster grandparents don’t just take children into their arms, they welcome them into their hearts as well,” she said.

Janet Somerville, director of the Foster Grandparent Program, said the program currently has 118 volunteers in 19 counties throughout West Virginia serving children in schools, headstarts and day care centers. The volunteers contribute 15-40 hours a week, helping out in small group settings with reading, math skills, and also serve in middle and high schools. They receive a stipend of $2.65 an hour, mileage reimbursement and meal reimbursement through the boards of education.

The Senior Companion Program has 105 volunteers in 23 different counties who go into the homes and help people maintain their independence. Clients are either 18 and older with a disability or seniors needing assistance.

“To join the program you have to be 55 or older, meet federal income guidelines, pass a physical and background checks, and be willing to provide 15 or more hours serving in the community,” said Rod Poling, program director. Training is provided. The workers are provided a stipend of $2.65 an hour and mileage reimbursement and a meal allotment. A new program this year is seeking veterans to help other veterans and their families.

“We are trying to find veterans that meet the guidelines to help other veterans or their family members in the community, providing additional help in their homes,” Poling said.

Anne McFee, with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program said RSVP is for those 55 and older to use their life experience to go out and help others in the community. “A lot of nonprofit organizations can use their help, clerical, there are a lot who help with the Red Cross blood drives, senior citizen centers, delivering for the Salvation Army, Project Lifesaver, driving vets to veterans administration, helping with the arts festival at WVU,” McFee said.

Senior Companion, Foster Grandparents and Retired Senior Volunteer Program all have offices in the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council headquarters on Market Street in Parkersburg,

Sen. Joe Manchin, a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, issued a proclaimation for Senior Corps Week.

“For more than four decades, the RSVP, Senior Companions and Foster Grandparents have proven to be a highly effective way to engage Americans 55 and older in meeting national and community needs. Each year, Senior Corps provides opportunities for nearly 330,000 older Americans across the nation, including approximately 3,297 volunteers in West Virginia. These volunteers serve in more than 65,000 nonprofit, community, educational and faith-based groups nationwide,” Manchin said.

Anyone interested in learning more about the programs, which are housed in the MOVRC at 531 Market St., can call 304-422-4993.