A foster grandparent receives joy from volunteering at Myers Elementary

Delores “Dee” Herbert was in a car accident last July which was caused by another driver. This horrible crash caused her painful knee injuries in which she had to endure a month of physical therapy. Since her car was totaled in the crash, she was forced to ride the Blair Senior Services bus to attend her therapy sessions .
During this time, Herbert met a lady on the bus named Betty, and they began to carry on many conversations. This lady would stop at the Lilly Pond Day Care Center in Altoona every day, and finally Herbert asked Betty if she worked there. It turned out that she was a volunteer foster grandparent for Blair Senior Services.
“One of the riders is a foster grandparent volunteer through the Blair County foster grand parent program. As a result of conversations with this caring lady, I have now become a participant of this program too,” said Herbert. “I called Blair Senior Services and enrolled in this program last November 2002. After one week of training and screening I was assigned to be at Myers Elementary School in Bellwood, only two miles from where I reside.”
Herbert enjoys working with one or a small number of children on a daily basis at Myers Elementary. She is involved with two kindergarten classes, a first grade class, children from third and fourth grades and a special education class.
“Being a foster grand parent volunteer at Myers Elementary School is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever encountered. Never in my adult years have I experienced group hugs on a daily basis as I am now. What a blessing,” said Herbert.
Herbert is the mother of three daughters, including twins. She is the grandmother of 10 children and the great-grandmother of four children. Before she retired, Herbert was involved in a long-lasting modeling career in which she worked as a personnel specialist and as an assistant director at Barbizon Modeling School. She owned and operated Models and Associates in Arkansas and was a modeling and fashion consultant there as well.
“I wish to say though I have endless love from my precious family, the additional love I am embraced with every school day from all these adoring young children gives more purpose to my life. Had it not been for the car accident, causing injuries, forcing me into therapy, having to ride the senior van and talking with Betty, I may never have become involved with the volunteer foster grandparent program.”
“Being in the program has been fantastic for her. It’s been a life-changing experience,” said Gina Mazzocco, assistant director of national senior service corp programs. “What’s nice about the foster grand parent program is it works that way for the kids as well.”
The foster grand parent program has been around since 1980, and Tyrone, Bellwood, Altoona, Hollidaysburg and the Huntingdon schools all participate in it. The program currently has about 70 foster grand parents, and they volunteer at least 20 hours a week. They receive a stipend of $2.65 an hour that is non-taxable.
“The foster grandparent program is where seniors 60 or older that are income eligible work with special or exceptional need children, whether it be an emotional need or for educational purposes,” said Suzanna Loy, director of the national senior service corp programs.
“They go through a 40-hour orientation. We have people come in from the community whether it be an elementary school, a headstart or a day care. The second week of the training is a trial run.”
The foster grandparents learn about the needs of children and how to work with them. Also, they visit day cares, elementary schools and hospitals with supervisors before going out on their own.
“We do have a need for the program,” said Loy. “We did have a hospital who donated physicals. Every year all the foster grandparents have to have an annual physical, and the hospital is no longer able to do that.”
If any hospitals or doctor’s offices are interested in donating physicals to the foster grandparent program, they can contact Blair Senior Services at 946-1235.