09/07/08 — Foster grandparents celebrate at annual event

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Foster grandparents celebrate at annual event

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 7, 2008 11:50 AM

Two years ago when Mary Elliott first started as a foster grandparent for boisterous kindergartners at Dillard Academy, she thought "I'm not going to like this."

"But now, it's the joy of my life. I got real attached to them, and now I love it," she said.

And the feeling is mutual, said one of the long-time volunteers, Ethel Dove.

"You just don't know how much these children love you," she told the 150-or-so foster grandparents who attended the 14th Annual Red Rose Tea held in the H.V. Brown Hall on Poplar Street Friday morning. During the event, several community leaders thanked the foster grandparents, who work at 11 places throughout Wayne County.

Goldsboro Mayor Al King presented the toast, and several volunteers spoke to the group after brunch.

Volunteer Martin Bass, who works at Skill Creations, said he didn't realize the foster grandparents program was a national organization.

"I just thought it was part of Wayne County," he said.

But he told the group he feels honored to be a part of the program.

Another volunteer, Madaline Slater, works at the Wayne County Health Department taking care of the older siblings while the pregnant moms see the doctor. She told the group that one day a little boy came up to her and asked her why she had white hair.

"This is wisdom," she told him. "It's beautiful. I enjoy it," she said. "They walk on my feet. They love me, and they hug me. It's wonderful."

Volunteer Rose Marie Aldridge said she looks forward to going to O'Berry Center to volunteer every morning.

"We feel like family out there. I wouldn't take nothing for the journey of being a foster grandparent," she said.

The Foster Grandparents program has been in Wayne County since 1972, said Foster Grandparent Administrator June Monk.

In the past year, she said, the volunteers have worked with more than 300 children. And even after counting the small $2.65 stipend the volunteers receive, she said they have saved Wayne County citizens as much as $415,000 in just this one year.

"Thank you foster grandparents for saving some of my tax money," she told them.

Ethel Dove started volunteering with the program back in the early 1990s after retiring from her job at Dobbs School in Kinston. She has retired now from being a foster grandparent but still shows up at the sites from time to time to visit and to help out, Mrs. Monk said.

"She's 90 years old and still wears high heel shoes all the time," Mrs. Monk said after the event. "They're all a joy to be around, and they don't mind working. They know how to do canning, and they know how to survive. They can teach the mothers some things."