Team Spotlight Jul 17

Fostering Great Futures Team Spotlight: Area Agency on Aging Foster Grandparents

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor’s foster grandparents are sharing their days to help shape the tomorrows of our community’s kids. They are role models, mentors, and friends to Youth Campus members, helping to put them on a path to a Great Future. The foster grandparent program, a partnership with the Area Agency on Aging, also provides a way for volunteers to stay active by serving the children in our community. Throughout the summer, our grandparents have a tremendous impact on all facets of our Club program, particularly instilling in our kids the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

Nathaniel Whitelow, or “Grandpa Nate,” has been volunteering during the summers for five years with the foster grandparent program. Born and raised in Benton Harbor, Grandpa Nate is one of 10 children and knows the importance of having good role models. “I have always worked with kids,” says Nate who worked with the Benton Harbor Area Schools system for 40 years before his retirement in 2012.
Grandpa Nate brings his love of gardening to the Club by volunteering for the Positive Sprouts program, a horticultural project that teaches Club members how to plant, tend, and harvest small fruits and vegetables in raised bed gardens. “Even more than what and how to grow, the program teaches the children how to work together and be partners,” says Nate. 

Ella Franklin, also known as “Grandma El,” is also a part of the foster grandparent program. For most of her working life, Grandma El was a long-haul truck driver, but for the past seven years, she has been a tutor for first graders. “I just want to encourage to kids that the can be and do whatever they set their minds to,” she says.

Grandma El is volunteering in the dance/drama room where the Club integrates the arts to help boost all-around learning. “I don’t usually dance, but sometimes they get me out there,” she says. The program is designed to help keep kids active, both physically and mentally, preparing kids for success.
Grandma El is not just a foster grandparent, she is an actual grandparent to three Club members! “Without the Clubs, so many kids just would not have any place positive to go,” says Grandma El. “I can tell you that the Club made such a difference for my grandson Lance.” 

Studies show that volunteering helps you live longer and promotes a positive outlook on life. Our Club’s foster grandparents exemplify those ideas and are constantly leading our youngest members to new discoveries and new plans for the future.

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