County seniors offer assistance to others

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 5, 2001

Relaxing or traveling might sound like typical retirement activities, but some senior citizens in Lawrence County spend much of their time volunteering.

Sunday, August 05, 2001

Relaxing or traveling might sound like typical retirement activities, but some senior citizens in Lawrence County spend much of their time volunteering.

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Through the foster grandparent and senior companion program, 54 Lawrence County residents over 60 years of age help children and other senior citizens.

"It’s a unique service," Coordinator Laura Black said.

The program is operated by the private, non-profit Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD) in 29 counties.

"Lawrence County has a very well-developed program," Tim Nouse, director of senior programs, said.

Both areas of the program have a long history. The foster grandparent program was COAD’s first large scale program, beginning 29 years ago, Nouse said. A foster grandparent works one-on-one with children with special academic or social needs, serving as a tutor and mentor.

Foster grandparents are exceptional in these roles because many have more time and patience than people of other generations, Black said.

"These children and grandparents have a natural bond once they get to know each other," she said.

Volunteers Shirley Pinkerman and Wilma Wooton of Ironton still enjoy the program after four years.

There are no down sides to foster grandparenting, Pinkerman said.

Wooton described a particularly successful foster grandchild of hers.

The boy was five years old and had not learned the alphabet. Wooton worked with him and taught him why learning was important.

"When he said the ABCs everybody was tickled to death," she said.

While the foster grandparents work with children, senior companions help others closer to their own age.

The senior companions spend time with elderly men and women who need a friend or help with chores and errands.

Companion Joanne Pauley of Ironton described her volunteer job as "making them happy if they are sad," as well as helping with household tasks.

A bond develops between senior companions and those they help as well.

"They seem like family," Pauley said of the seniors she visits.

There are 12 senior companions in the county and 42 foster grandparents.

Most people in COAD’s program serve an average of 9.5 years, and the longest amount of service is 27 years, Nouse said.

"That’s pretty incredible since all the volunteers are over 60," he said.

Lawrence County has two foster grandparents with 19 years in the program, Black said.

The foster grandparents and senior companions spend at least 20 hours a week volunteering.

If the volunteers meet an income requirement they can receive a stipend of $2.55 an hour. They also are reimbursed for transportation costs.

Even if a senior citizen does not qualify for the stipend, they can still participate in the program.

And the program seems to be emotionally satisfying for at least a few volunteers.

Pauley, Pinkerman and Wooton all said they do more than what is required because they enjoy helping their charges.

The opportunity for activity is appreciated.

"I caught myself staying home too much," Pauley said.

Wooten also said she had extra time before she started volunteering.

They seem to like this program.

"I wouldn’t go anywhere else to volunteer," Pinkerman said.

She and Wooton said they will participate as long as they are able.

Pauley said she intends to continue for a while as well: "’Til I fall down," she said, laughing.