Offering their time and a little bit of themselves to the youngest generation is the idea behind a foster grandparent program that includes Garvin County, Okla.
Seniors 60 and older have for some time been volunteering to help young school children in elementary schools and Head Start programs, in addition to mentoring kids with special or exceptional needs.
In exchange they receive far more than a small stipend for their work, said Lynne Littrell, program coordinator for a 10-county region that includes Garvin County.
"We mostly have volunteers in the elementary schools," Littrell said.
"They work with the teacher on what the kids need. They do whatever the need of the child is, so they won't be left behind."
Most of their work centers on literacy, such as reading to the children. Sometimes they wind helping in other subject areas, including some tips for the youngsters on such things as social skills and self-help.
"We have one volunteer who helps the kids with math," Littrell said.
Typically each volunteer will serve between two and 20 students each week, depending on the needs of the classroom.
They normally work a minimum of 15 hours a week for a non-taxable hourly stipend.
It's that work which Littrell sees as invaluable.
"It's a win-win situation for the children and the seniors," Littrell said. "It can give them something they may not get somewhere else," she said about the kids getting help from the seniors. "The teachers at the school, they also see a big difference." An example of that difference is 86 percent of the students served under this program see their reading skills increased by one grade level, according to Littrell. Right now there are five FGP programs in Oklahoma. The program in Pauls Valley began in 1982 on the campus of the PV State School providing individual attention to residents there as well as offering the senior adults in the area an opportunity to become involved in their community and earn a little extra income. Currently there are seven volunteers in Garvin County and in the neighborhood of 40 altogether in the region. "We could use a few more here in Garvin County. We're down by about 10 due to health reasons and retirement," she said. To qualify as a volunteer a person must be at least 60 years old, in reasonably good health and meet the program's income guidelines. Income limits vary according to the number of people who live in the home. Benefits to volunteers who qualify according to age and income include a non-taxable stipend of 2.65 per hour, a daily meal, annual physical, supplemental accident insurance coverage, mileage reimbursement, paid time off and holidays.