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Foster Grandparent Program Continues to Commit to Steadfast Service with Support from AmeriCorps Grant

July 9, 2021  | 2 min read

Foster grandparent with two children at their schoolThe Graduate School of Education and Psychology’s (GSEP) Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) was awarded nearly $1 million in funding from the program’s long-time federal sponsor AmeriCorps. The grant will continue to support the FGP as it commits to another year of service to both seniors and disadvantaged youth especially as it enters its 50th year of service.

“Our foster grandparents are the epitome of service,” said Shanetta Weatherspoon, EdD, who serves as the executive director of GSEP's Foster Grandparent Program. “Their motivation is so encouraging and inspires me to be the leader I am.”

As schools closed and communities followed stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19, the elderly were not only subject to serious COVID-19 infections but also severe feelings of isolation and loneliness. With a majority of the program’s volunteers low income, in higher age groups, and persons of color, they were in particularly high-risk populations for COVID-19. Weatherspoon quickly mobilized to provide direct support to the program’s volunteers. Throughout the pandemic, the program provided more than 1,500 bags of non-perishable food and other essential supplies, distributed hundreds of masks and disposable gloves, and performed regular wellness checks. 

Additionally, Weatherspoon and the FGP staff provided more than 130 laptops and offered technology training to volunteers. With access to technology, foster grandparents could combat isolation through continued virtual volunteer work with the program. Since February 2021, more than 150 volunteers have continued to serve virtually through online meetings with youth, providing mentorship and friendship.

Foster grandparents’ sustained involvement through the pandemic has left them more motivated than ever to return to in-person service. On Tuesday, July 6, 2021, a group of 34 volunteers joined four FGP staff at the Ronald Reagan Library to honor both former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s support of the program and each of the volunteers for their service. While still following social distancing guidelines and wearing facial coverings, the volunteers’ excitement was palpable.

“Their energy that day was just a sample of what we get to look forward to once we are all together in person again,” shared Weatherspoon. 

Under Weatherspoon’s careful leadership over the last six years, the program has grown substantially. With increased grant funding and community partnerships, the program has doubled its coverage of Los Angeles’ largest urban areas. Additionally, the number of grandparent volunteers in the program has more than doubled. To honor this expansion, the perseverance of volunteers this last year, and the program’s long tradition of service, the program will celebrate its 50th anniversary throughout 2021 and 2022.

To support the celebrations for the 50th anniversary, the program will take part in virtual fundraising with DoubleGood. The fundraising platform allows grandparents and FGP supporters to fundraise and give to the program completely virtually while safeguarding their health and safety by minimizing in-person contact while COVID-19 continues to spread in Los Angeles County. Culminating the anniversary celebrations will be the Golden Jubilee Gala on Saturday, July 16, 2022.

To learn more about and give support to GSEP’s Foster Grandparent Program, visit the program’s website.

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