ASHE COUNTY — The Appalachian Foster Grandparent Program is celebrating its 35th anniversary in the High Country and is currently looking for volunteers.
The Foster Grandparent Program began nationally 50 years ago on Aug. 28, 1965 as a pilot program designed to engage people over 60 with some income limitation in community service. The program began with 800 volunteers. Today, there are 30,000 volunteers who help more than 280,000 children nationwide.
Locally, the program began in 1980 under the sponsorship of New River Mental Health with 66 volunteers. Appalachian State University took over sponsorship in 2003 and the program now has over 100 volunteers.
The program partners low income seniors who are 55 years of age or older with children 20 hours per week. In the High Country, the program covers Ashe, Alleghany, Avery, Watauga and Wilkes counties.
According to Tammy Taylor, Director of the Appalachian Foster Grandparent Program, the program has many volunteers placed in Ashe County schools including Blue Ridge, Mountain View and Westwood Elementary schools along with Ashe County Developmental Day School, Generations Developmental Day Care and Ashe Early Learning.
Ashe County organizations that fund the program include a Federal Grant through the Corporation for National and Community Service in Ashe, Ashe County Commissioners, Ashe County NC Community Foundation and Wal-Mart. The program is also funded by private donations and fund raising.
To be eligible, volunteers must be 55 years of age or older, have a clear criminal background check including an FBI and SBI fingerprint check and a check of the National Sex Offender Registry. Volunteers must also have three references, a physical, adequate transportation and a love for children.
Volunteers receive two days of training and a monthly stipend including meal and travel reimbursements each month.
For more information or to become a volunteer, contact Tammy Taylor or Sherry Wood at 336-846-4898.
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.