Foster Grandparents honored for their work

Fort Dodge’s Foster Grandparents were honored Thursday at Citizens Central downtown. The senior volunteers visit area elementary schools to help young students with various skills, including reading and writing.

“Every year we celebrate the end of the school year with appreciation for the Foster Grandparents, but this year is a special year,” Jeanine Nemitz, Foster Grandparents director, said. “It’s the 40th year we’ve been in Fort Dodge. That’s where we came up with the theme with the M&Ms, 40 years of Memorable Moments.”

The celebration also came with a significant milestone, according to Nemitz.

“When we added up all the numbers we went over a million hours that have been contributed by Foster Grandparents in the 40 years they’ve been in Fort Dodge,” she said. “Using the average that we work with about 600 kids a year, that’s 24,000 children who have benefited. Almost the whole population of Fort Dodge, that size, has been assisted by a Foster Grandparent in this county.”

She added, “We’re pretty proud.”

There are 42 Foster Grandparents, including three Foster Grandfathers, in all of the Fort Dodge public schools, St. Edmond Catholic School, St. Paul Lutheran School, Community Christian School, at Southeast Webster Grand and at Manson Northwest Webster, and Head Start and Community Daycare.

Butler Elementary Principal Mike Woodall lauded the Foster Grandparents Thursday.

“They’re awesome,” Woodall said. “They are a lot of help to our kids. I don’t know what we’d do without them. They help with our groups. They supervise, anything we need them to do. It’s been great having them in the building.”

Nemitz said she was proud to be a part of the 40-year legacy of selflessness shown by Fort Dodge’s Foster Grandparents.

“It’s a responsibility I take very seriously. I love being here to celebrate this,” she said. “The real work of this program happens with our grandparents and their teachers. My job is just to keep the wheels greased in the background so they can continue to do what they do.”

With the end of the year, teachers have completed evaluations on their Foster Grandparents. Not only were the teachers’ remarks commending, the grandparents were venerated by the students.

“To me, the highest compliment I heard this week was on our Facebook page,” she said. “A young adult said the grandma and teacher she had in third grade were the two people who convinced her she wanted to go and be a teacher herself.”

Nemitz said the Foster Grandparents do a good job in their respective schools.

“Our grandparents came from all kinds of careers,” she said, “And for them to have an encore career after they’ve retired, to think they’ve gone back to school, most of them for five days a week, and help little kids to become successful, you just can’t put a price on that.”