Foster grandparents honored for service Friday
For 38 years, Bi-County SERVICE Inc. has operated the Foster Grandparent Program in mid-Missouri, which places area seniors as volunteers and role models in schools, Head Start centers and other youth-oriented facilities.
On Friday, April 23, foster grandparents from Saline, Johnson, Lafayette and Ray counties gathered at Martin Community Center in Marshall for their annual recognition ceremony and banquet.
Two foster grandparents were named as volunteers of the year: Emma Jean Schockley, a 19-year volunteer representing Johnson, Lafayette and Ray counties; and Wanda Tyre of Saline County, who has eight years of experience with the program.
Bi-County SERVICE Inc. Executive Director Martin Tichenor said the role of foster grandparents extends beyond helping a child to read or behave better at school.
"What it's really about is hugs and sitting on Granny's lap," he said.
He continued, "There is such a special bond that is created. You sense it, but you can't really describe it."
State Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, said that foster grandparents are more important than ever in the current economic downturn, especially as many schools have been forced to make drastic budget cuts recently.
"Having people step up and volunteer their time, that can make a big difference," he said. "You're stepping out and going that extra mile."
Representing Congress-man Ike Skelton, D-Mo., Kyle Wilkens said that volunteers might never know the full impacts of their service.
"What you folks do for those little ones is really a big deal," he said. "They're always going to be able to look back and say, 'Somebody cared about me.'"
Kirstie Nator is the state program specialist for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees the Foster Grandparent Program. She offered some statistics about foster grandparents in Missouri and nationwide.
In 2009, Missouri foster grandparents served a total of 6,550 children. Throughout the nation, 29,000 seniors volunteered for a total of 24.3 million hours to serve 250,000 children in 2009.
But, Nator said, "You live these numbers day in and day out. You don't volunteer because of these statistics."
She also emphasized that service is something that can be performed by people of any age and skill level.
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Nator said, "Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love."
During the ceremony and banquet, foster grandparents were serenaded by third- and fourth-grade students from St. Peter Catholic School, under the direction of Ruth Hartung, as well as a choir from Missouri Valley College.
After lunch, they heard a presentation from Anne Mallinson and Nancy Jackson about historic foods.
The following is a list of the foster grandparents who serve in Saline County: James Armstrong, Willie Armstrong, Edwina Arni, Mary Banks, Velma Brown, Kenneth Brown, Iris Carpenter, Glenna Coble, Maxine Coslet, Margie Drew, Jessie Edde, Gloria Evans, John Ezell, Jo Nell Fizer, Elaine Garrett, Dorothy Glavin, Bobbie Grimes, Kathryn Halsey, Deloris Heather, Hannah Henderson, Karen Hicks, Dorothy Krause, Sandra Larsen, Mildred Malan, Willard McGinnis, Catherine Miles, Lynda Narron, Clara Norman, Alice Perkins, Israel Rocha, Oralia Rocha, Beverly Saunders, Betty Scharnhorst, Sarah Sherwood, Brenda Smith, Betty Smith, Gloria Sparks, Ray Swan, LaVerne Tennill, Raymond Tennill, Wanda Tyre, Lillie Woody, Mary Wright, Lizzie Wyrick and Betty Zinn.