Story and Video by Carly Banks
Sometimes it’s as simple as going on a walk. Other times, it requires reading a story book or tutoring students in math. Whatever the task at hand may be, thanks to a recent grant of more than $1.3 million, these volunteers will continue to change lives—others and their own.
Northern Arizona University’s Civic Service Institute has sponsored the Senior Companion and Foster Grandparent Programs for nearly three decades—providing opportunities for people 55 and over to serve throughout the state.
“The programs are invaluable in the communities they serve because they engage volunteers to help people—homebound elders and young children—who are struggling and need support to thrive,” said Erin Kruse, senior corps programs project director.
The volunteers, who can choose from a variety of programs, dedicate at least 15 hours a week to serve people of all ages in Maricopa, Yavapai, Coconino, Navajo and Mohave counties. Last year, 242 volunteers served more than 1,100 people between the Senior Companion and Foster Grandparent Programs.
“Of the 750 preschool through high school students whose teachers reported outcomes, 93 percent said that the students served by a Foster Grandparent volunteer improved in their academic performance and engagement,” Kruse said.
In addition, recent studies have shown volunteers enjoy the health benefits of serving others—decreasing anxiety, depression, loneliness and social isolation.
“These programs are of great benefit to everyone,” Kruse said. “The Foster Grandparent Program and Senior Companion Program have long histories of creating positive change and we want to honor that legacy by continuing to engage compassionate, dedicated volunteers.”
The Foster Grandparent grant for $752,000 and the Senior Companion grant for $611,000 from the Corporation for National and Community Service, a U.S. federal government agency that engages more than five million Americans in service initiatives, will allow the programs to grow.
“These programs would not exist without this funding; it is critical to their continued operation and will allow these programs to continue changing lives.”