The school supplies are on the shelf at local stores and students are beginning to think about back to school. Students and school staff are not the only ones returning to school. Seniors adults who were busy with outdoor summer pursuits may find they have time on their hands. Using this time to help others is a way to improve the quality of life for both the volunteer and the children who meet with the volunteer.

Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program has a special volunteer national service program, the Foster Grandparent Program (FGP), which is designed for seniors. Foster Grandparent volunteers do not volunteer in homes, instead the focus of the FGP is to provide seniors with supervised volunteer opportunities in public and faith-based schools, HeadStarts, not-for-profit daycares, and other organizations who focus on improving the lives of children. The volunteers read to or listen to children read, do math flash cards, or other classroom activities developed by the teacher.

The Foster Grandparent Program, created by Congress in 1965, is now on its “second generation” of providing an inter-generational component at approved host stations. Locally the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program (Southwest CAP) sponsors the FGP in eight counties: Grant, Green, Iowa, Lafayette, Crawford, Richland, Vernon and Sauk. Foster Grandparent volunteers are part of the national service network of Senior Corps which utilizes life skills of seniors to meet community needs through volunteer service. Funds for the Senior Corps programs are provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and state funded through DHFS. Foster Grandparents are seniors 55 and older who meet income guidelines and FGP guidelines, which includes a background check, and have the desire to use their life experience to volunteer 5-40 hours per week during the school year at approved host sites to encourage, tutor, and mentor.

In return for volunteering, income qualified FGP volunteers can earn a little extra money in the form of a tax-free hourly stipend. As an added bonus the money does not affect any income sensitive program such as housing, heating assistance, food assistance, or SSI. Volunteers also receive funds to assist with transportation to and from host site and FGP activities, a meal allowance, assistance with an annual physical, paid pre-service training and paid monthly trainings.

If you are 55 years of age or older, have limited income and could benefit from tax-free earnings, and are interested in learning more about the opportunity to join other community members in activities that improve the lives of children, contact the Foster grandparent Program at Southwest CAP, 149 N. Iowa St., Dodgeville, or call 1-800-704-8555, ext. 209 or email c.deckert@swcap.org . Additional information can be found at www.nationalservice.gov and www.swcap.org.

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