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10 locals serve in Foster Grandparent program

The smile on a child's face, the smell of new shoes and the sight of big yellow school buses rolling down the streets bring lots of excitement as the new school year kicks off. Not only are thousands of children going back to school, so are 200 Foster Grandparent senior volunteers serving throughout Central Minnesota Foster Grandparent Program's 16 county area.

Foster Grandparents help children learn how to read, provide one-on-one tutoring, and guide children at a critical time in their lives. One Foster Grandparent who has seen the results of their service first-hand is Grandma Freda Andreini, who works with elementary age children. Last school year, Grandma Freda had a student who showed no interest in reading and was in danger of repeating the first grade.

"Our first few sessions left me both perplexed and exhausted," she said. "He just sat there and waited for me to tell him what a word was and then repeated it."

Grandma Freda knew she was going to have to get creative. "The breakthrough came when I produced a pack of word cards and started him on 'Hooked on Phonics.' He liked moving his marker up the map that comes with the set; it looks like a game board. I discovered that this child loves games!"

After this breakthrough, Grandma and her student started to make visible progress. "I also introduced prizes for reaching certain goals, little cars and things like that," she said. "We ran through the easy words and I was hunting for harder and harder words. Soon, he began to read his class textbooks fluently! I am glad that our sessions together in the afternoons helped this child enjoy school and feel free to let people know how smart he really is."

Through Grandma Freda's efforts, the student progressed to the second grade with his classmates. Foster Grandparents are often utilized in schools to bring students up to grade level in reading and math by giving them extra support and help. Each year thousands of students stay on-track with their peers in school through the work and dedication of seniors serving as Foster Grandparents.

In the Wadena/Deer Creek area, 10 local seniors volunteer as Foster Grandparents: Joan Bakken, LeRoy Keppers, Carol Klindworth, Marcella Mohs, Leona Porter, Barbara Schertler, Evafern Terry, Carol Wallace, Josephine Weiher and Arlene Wynn.

About the Central Minnesota Foster Grandparent Program

Foster Grandparents spend 15 to 40 hours per week helping children in schools, early education programs, residential facilities, and other nonprofit agencies. Through their service, the foster grandparents create relationships with and become role models for children who need such constructive relationships the most.

The Senior Corps, which is under the direction of the Corporation for National and Community Service, consists of the Foster Grandparent Program, the Senior Companion Program, and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. The Central Minnesota Foster Grandparent Program is sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud. For information on the Foster Grandparent Program, or becoming a foster grandparent, please contact Becky Martinson at (218) 639-9314 or