NW Alabama Foster Grandparent Program Celebrates 40-Years

Foster Grandparent Cornelia Jones helps a student at Harlan Elementary in Florence with his reading skills.

Foster Grandparent Cornelia Jones helps a student at Harlan Elementary in Florence with his reading skills.

FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) – A volunteer program is marking its 40th year of service in northwest Alabama, and it’s a group of unsung heroes who are shaping the minds of tomorrow.

It’s called the Foster Grandparent Program and directors of the program said they fill a gap in today’s classroom.

In Miss Cindy Taylor’s kindergarten class at Harlan Elementary in Florence, grandma as she is affectionately known helps students learn to read as a foster grandparent volunteer.

“I care for these kids like they are my own, I care for them,” explained Cornelia Jones, a 78-year-old foster grandparent.

The retired seamstress and grandmother of many said it does her heart good to be able to volunteer in the classroom.

“This is where they get the basics I think, kindergarten and pre-k. If they don’t get it there it’s going to be hard for them,” explained Jones. “That’s why I try all I can to help.”

Part of the federal Senior Corps Program, nearly 100 volunteers like Jones go to the classroom each day in northwest Alabama.

Cindy Taylor said she has been using foster grandparents in her classroom for 31 years.

“The love that they give these children, the help they give these children, the one on one help that they can give these children,” said Taylor, “It’s just invaluable, invaluable.”

And the foster grandparents said they don’t do it for the money, they do it for the love of the children.

In 2013, foster grandparents provided 23,000 hours of mentoring and tutoring to children in the Florence City Schools.

If you are interested in volunteering as a foster grandparent, contact Jessica Latham with the Foster Grandparent Program in Russellville at (256) 332-6800.

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