Grandpa Bob has extended family at Open Door

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 16, 2003

To the staff at the Open Door School, the nickname "Grandpa Bob" fits 81-year-old Bob Payne perfectly because he treats all the students he works with just like they were his own grandchildren.

The Ironton resident is one of five volunteers that works at the school through the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization's volunteer grandparent program. Though they do receive a very small stipend, they are considered volunteers and are a tremendous help, Principal Jeff Saunders said.

"They work mainly one-on-one with the students in the classrooms. That frees up the time of the teachers and assistants to work with other students," Saunders said. "It is a vital part of our program."

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After seven years, Payne has become part of the extended family, Saunders said.

"Grandpa Bob is very dedicated and he loves the students," Saunders said. "We are only here for the school year, but if he could, he would be here all year round."

For Payne, a retiree from several jobs including the Ironton Coke plant and Alpha Portland Cement, it is hard to describe what volunteering at Open Door has meant to him.

"Words can't explain it," he said. "You just have to be associated with them to appreciate what the teachers, aides, Principal Saunders and everyone else does.

"If I can help just one kid here, I feel I have done some good," he said. "The kids here all crave affection. This is one program that continues to be extremely important."

As far as he is concerned, Open Door is invaluable to the community.

"If it was not for this school, many of these kids would just be at home," he said.

Payne volunteers in the vocational 2 class that teaches eight to 10 students from ages 16 to 21 how to function on their own and learn skills that will help them after the graduate.

"He's my right-hand man," teacher Debby Chapman said. "I don't know what I would do without him."

Other volunteer grandparents at Open Door are LaVerne Deering, Jeane Shope, Mary Brammer and Bertha Dixon.