Program pairs seniors with students

By Clarence Plank: PNT staff writer

Senior citizens have a chance to feel needed and help out students and teachers alike with the Community Services Center Foster Grandparents Program.

The program started in the state in 1965 to provide a learning experience from senior tutors to children.

Ada Bud Moorhead is a grandma for teacher Brenda Parrish’s third-grade class at James Elementary School. Moorhead has been a foster grandparent for seven years.

“I just have a lot of fun out here, and that’s all it is to it,” Moorhead said. “I got to living by myself after the children and the grandchildren were gone.”

Then, she ran into a former acquaintance at the Community Services Center.

“The lady said, ‘Why don’t you become a foster grandparent?’” Moorhead said.

Moorhead was happy to have a chance to get out of her apartment.

“Reading and math is what I help them with and just a little bragging on them. I really enjoy doing this,” Moorhead said.

Foster grandparents help out at the child care center at Eastern New Mexico University and volunteer from kindergarten to fifth grade in Portales, said Monica Calamaco, foster grandparent program director.

“What it is, it helps the teacher by providing assistance when the foster grandparent works with the child one on one in the skills area the child is needing,” Calamaco said.

There are 13 volunteer foster grandparents in Portales. They can work with students through high school, although all Portales foster grandparents are volunteering in lower grades now.

For seniors to be part of the program, they need to be 55 years old or older. Senior volunteers receive a tax-free stipend, payment for gas mileage and free meals, either at the school or from the center.

The grandparents help children with reading, math, speech and behavior, or basically anything the child needs help in, Calamaco said.

“It’s wonderful to feel needed and just to know you’ve helped some little boy or girl,” Moorhead said. “It is worth all the effort.”