If you have ever been around children for an extended time, you will notice how they appreciate your time, attention and love.

The Foster Grandparent Program is sponsored locally by the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging. They are a group of people age 55 or older who are dedicated to helping children’s organizations through tutoring, mentoring and caring for youths with disadvantages or special needs. In Omaha, they mostly go into schools, Head Start programs and child care centers. They also serve as positive role models for the children.

The program in Omaha has 62 foster grandparents. In exchange for service of at least 15 hours a week, foster grandparents receive a tax-free stipend, mileage reimbursement, an annual health screen, supplemental accident insurance coverage, continued education training and an annual recognition luncheon.

Roxanne F. Jackson, the Foster Grandparent Program coordinator, said, “Some volunteers have reported improved physical and emotional health and a more positive outlook in life even after one year of service.”

Recently, I was invited to visit a training session for the Omaha group of foster grandparents. Once a month, they have a training session in which they learn different techniques and hone skills for working with children. They also have a variety of speakers with interesting and helpful information, people providing entertainment and a delicious lunch.

When I arrived at the session, the room was filled with warm, positive people who laughed, chatted and encouraged each other. They appeared to embrace the good things in life and celebrate them. You could understand how easy it would be for them to give comfort and love to children. They may never know the positive effect that their caring and tenderness had on these children as they travel down life’s journey.

Their speaker the day I visited was Jimmie Miller Johnson, a local author who read portions of her book titled, “Growing Up is Not an Option.”

Johnson said, “What a joy and privilege it was to be invited to the foster grandparents gathering. When I started talking and reading to the group, I felt so welcomed and very comfortable. It was as if I was having a warm and fun visit with friends whom I had known for years. It was an awesome feeling!”

According to the Senior Living Blog website, there are five reasons seniors should volunteer their time, other than helping others. It helps bridge the generation gap, change the way people think about older adults, prevent senior isolation and depression and promote healthy physical activity.

One of Johnson’s poems referring to seniors sums it up: “No one can steal our joy or youth even today, except us of course, because I’m still raring to go, so grab your dancing shoes, cane, or wheel chair, and join me in celebrating our time, then let’s kick it until further notice, because it’s still our time!”

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