These grandmas have tons of class
Seniors volunteer their time to help kids
A love for helping children is spurring several senior citizens to stay engaged and active in their communities.
Hazel Hoffner, 75, Charla Wheeler, 79, and Vicki Jackson, 74, all of Marion, and Diana Dalton, 70, of Hillsboro are participants in the Foster Grandparent Program and work at Hillsboro Elementary School.
They each are required to work at least 15 hours a week and can volunteer more if desired.
“I’m a retired teacher, and I never thought at age 79, that I could be back in the classroom,” Wheeler said.
She is in her second year as a foster grandparent and works with second-grade students.
“Interacting with kids is rewarding,” Hoffner said. “They give you hugs.”
She has been grandparenting pre-kindergartners for 11 years.
Jackson is in her first year, and she said the job gives her a reason to get up. She helps second- and third-grade students.
“It keeps me involved,” she said. “I enjoy the teachers, and it’s great when you have a breakthrough and they like you.”
Dalton said the teachers are glad to have their help. She is in her third year of working with third graders.
During storytime, the children sometimes engage the volunteers in conversation.
‘They love to hear about the olden days,” Wheeler said.
Hoffner worked on the assembly line at cabinetmaker Norcraft before moving to Marion and becoming a foster grandparent.
Dalton retired at 66 from Great Plains Federal Credit Union.
Wheeler was a teacher at Marion Elementary School for many years and also helped run a summer school program. She had experience as a para-educator and substitute teacher.
Jackson helped her husband run Dave’s IGA in Marion until they sold it to Greg and Mitch Carlson. She was Dave’s caregiver for 12 years before he died.
To qualify as foster grandparents, they each were interviewed by the Butler County Department on Aging, which sponsors the federal program in Marion County and five other counties. They also were fingerprinted and underwent a background check.
Principal Evan Yoder connects each grandparent with a teacher, and they decide together on a schedule.
“Mr. Yoder is so supportive of the program and of us,” Wheeler said.
“Everybody is so appreciative of us,” Hoffner added.
Dalton said foster grandparents are not supposed to be disciplinarians. That’s left up to the teachers.
“I’m glad of that,” she said, “because the kids are not afraid to come to you and share their stories. You never know what they will talk about.”
Each grandparent eats lunch with a different child each day in the lunchroom. Hoffner eats family-style with five children in their classroom.
Each foster grandparent receives an hourly stipend and mileage. They have in-service monthly with the Foster Grandparent Program.
In December, foster grandparents from the six counties were treated to a Christmas dinner and entertainment at Prairie Rose Chuckwagon at Benton.
Last modified Jan. 8, 2020