BY KATHY KAHN
WestCOP, (www.westcop.org) celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. The non-profit, based in Elmsford, is serving communities in Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan and Ulster counties and is always on the lookout for seniors who want to put their skills and camaraderie to work and mentor children to become better students.
Currently, there are 172 foster grandparents teamed up with children who need extra help that schools don’t have the income to provide for. “They serve as mentors or role models for children, teaching them how to read or social skills—many of the students don’t have grandparents in their lives,” said Liz Magier, Upstate Field Supervisor.
Westcop receives its funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Those interested in becoming foster grandparents must be over age of 55 with an income of $23,500 maximum annually for one person or $31,860 for two person household.
Foster grandparents must dedicate a minimum of 15 hours a week in the classroom. “The relationship is mutually beneficial,” said Magier. “The foster grandparent will meet with the teacher or principal and set up a schedule. We’ve had some of our foster grandparents with us for years…right now, we have one that has been with us for over 20 years.”
Magier says doing site visits to see how children are interacting with their foster grandparent is the most rewarding part of her job. “I love to see the kids and seniors interact. Many of them need extra help and feel comfortable with a ‘grandma’ or ‘grandpa’ helping them read or do other work. It’s a wonderful situation for the child and the grandparent and for the teacher as well.”
The Foster Grandparent Program pays a small stipend, reimburses for mileage and also gives a paid vacation to those who qualify for the program. To receive an application and learn more about what the program entails, call Rosemarie Bahr, director of the Foster Grandparent Program at 914-592-6200, ext. 114.