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Foster Grandparents program celebrates 50 years of operation

The national nonprofit, sponsored locally by the Health Association of Niagara County, hosts 57 grandparents in Niagara County Schools.
Posted at 6:25 PM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 18:25:49-04

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Foster Grandparent program at HANCI recruits senior citizens that are 55 years and older and pairs them with classrooms and students across Niagara County.

They act almost as teachers, offering the option of one-on-one support for students that fall behind during a regular school day.

"I do it for my love of the children, it makes me so happy," said Hellen Mott, a volunteer that has been working with students in the program for the last 24 years.

She currently operates at the Drake Elementary School in North Tonawanda, working in a classroom that contains both children with Individual Education Plans (IEP's) and those without.

"She means everything to these kids, they treat her like their own grandmother," said Katie Marren, a first grade teacher at the school and the one who shares the classroom with Hellen.

When children struggle with math, reading comprehension, spelling, or any subject, they simply raise their hand - and take a seat at Hellen's desk - where they will receive individual attention.

"For some students, it's vital to be able to get that ... It makes running a classroom so much smoother ... everyone gets exactly what they need," said Marren.

The students love her back - just as they would their own grandparents. For her 84th birthday, her children wrote a book of reasons why she is so important to them:

The Foster Grandparent program currently has 57 grandparents that operate in the Niagara County School system, plus millions of grandparents nationwide.

If you would like to apply, you must be 55 years or older and be able to volunteer at least 15 hours a week. You can find the application link on the HANCI website, here.

"It gives me life, I love these kids and now I have purpose. To get up everyday and see my little ones," said Mott.