by Susan Hellauer
Nyack, July 2 — By the time her neighbors at the Esther Gitlow Senior Residence in Suffern are stirring their morning coffee, Zelda Rosenberg is put together and out the door, ready for another day of making a difference. Even after 18 years in the Foster Grandparents program at the Spring Valley Head Start, she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I get so much out of it — as much as the kids do, really.” She talks about her little charge drawing a family portrait, and including her in it. “I gave him a hug, and I cried, I just cried!”
Zelda and her Foster Grandparents colleagues received special recognition at Nyack Head Start on Wednesday when Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY, 17) announced a three-year $950,000 Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Senior Corps Foster Grandparent program grant for Head Start of Rockland, Inc. Rep. Lowey congratulated Head Start of Rockland Director Ouida Foster Toutebon. “Foster grandparents have a lifetime of experience to offer children in need,” said Lowey. “I’m proud this federal grant will have a positive impact for grandparents and children in our community.”
Foster Grandparents are people 55 years and older who serve as role models, mentors, friends and tutors to children with exceptional needs. Volunteers work at thousands of local organizations like Head Start of Rockland that help children learn to read and provide one-on-one tutoring, mentor troubled teenagers and young mothers, care for premature infants or children with disabilities, and help children who have been abused or neglected. The program also provides a way for volunteers to stay active by serving children and youth in their communities.
CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer says the Foster Grandparents program creates mutual benefits for both kids and seniors. The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that helps Americans “improve the lives of their fellow citizens through service.”
During the grant period, which starts “today, right now!” according to Tina Chan, Fiscal Director of Head Start of Rockland, the program will connect 72 foster grandparents with a total of 648 Head Start students over the next three years. The Foster Grandparents program and Nyack Head Start, where the event was held, are celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year. Nyack was the “seed” Head Start that expanded this venerable program to all of Rockland County.
Also joining Rep. Lowey were Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart, Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern), and Nyack Deputy Mayor Don Hammond.
Spencer praised Lowey for her persistence in finding funds for productive programs like Head Start, at a time when the CNCS and other community service programs are facing drastic budget cuts in the fiscal 2016 House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill.
Susan Hellauer is a Bronx native and Nyack resident. She has been a volunteer with Nyack Community Ambulance Corps since 2001, and now serves as board member and Corps secretary. She teaches music and writing at Queens College and is a member of the vocal ensemble Anonymous 4.
For more information about Senior Corps and the Foster Grandparent program in Rockland County, contact Head Start of Rockland Inc., at (845) 429-4122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.