The Duncan Banner
For the first time, the six Oklahoma counties that participate in the Foster Grandparent Program all came together for the 31st annual Delta Community Action Foster Grandparent Recognition, which was held at First United Methodist Church.
In the past, each county has had it’s own banquet, instead of bringing together all 72 volunteers at one time.
However, this year there was good reason to change the format, since several state legislators attended.
The recognition to the foster grandparents is given to honor the volunteers and the time they put into helping children.
“You get such small thanks and there are people who have joined us to show their support,” said Mynan Hutto, program director for Foster Grandparents. “We have legislators here to show how much they appreciate the program.”
In attendance were State Representatives Joe Dorman and Dennis Johnson, along with State Senators Don Barrington and Randy Bass. Hutto mentioned these legislators have worked well with the program and she wanted to remind everyone “how sweet a deal the FGP really is.”
Collectively between the 72 volunteers, they have 326 years experience tutoring and mentoring children. In the more than 18 years since the program began, the foster grandparents have volunteered 2 million hours of service. The biggest statistic of all is what they have saved the taxpayers.
Each volunteer only receives a small stipend of about $2.65 an hour, while it has been estimated their work is worth $17.50 an hour. With those figures, over the past 18 years this program has saved community taxpayers $2,970,000,000.
“A lot of children have succeeded because of the Foster Grandparent Program,” Hutto stated. “Without you all, we wouldn’t have all these successes.”
Guest speaker Ben Dickerson was given the last of six keys to Duncan. Dickerson is a Texas native who has degrees in gerontology and co-founded the National Foster Grandparents Jamboree.
“Oklahoma has the best program for the aging than any other state I’ve been in,” said Dickerson. “It’s so good to be here and I’m pleased to see the Oklahoma representatives.”
While addressing the audience of volunteers, he said they represent all of the qualities needed from a grandparent to give to a child. They are full of love, warmth, stability and caring.
“You are an unbelievable asset to this country. You’re helping people grow. Being a servant is the highest calling anyone can have and you have been called to be servants to a wonderful group of children,” said Dickerson.
“Never quit learning and I want you to excel at listening and excel at hugging.”
The theme for the afternoon was Foster Grandparents Rock and to fit the theme, entertainment was provided by Winifred Bailey, choir director for FUMC, and a group of her women’s choir. They performed a medley of rock and roll tunes they called, “The Sixties: Music That Rocked the World.”