THE YOUNG AND THE OLD: A NATURAL FIT
Nurturing kids comes naturally for Lucy Long of Minneapolis.
She’s a grandmother and great-grandmother of 20 children — either as a parent, grandparent, childcare provider or Sunday school teacher.
To Long, caring for children is a gift that she puts into action as part of her faith. At age 80, her ministry to children continues as a 13-year Foster Grand-parent for special needs kids at Washburn High School in south Minneapolis.
“I really enjoy what I do, and it gives me something to think about other than myself,” says Long. “When kids respond to me, I know I am making a difference, and that means more to me than anything.”
“Grandma Lucy” arrives at Washburn every weekday and helps students with reading, math, eating or mobility. Most of all, her caring presence and attention are what the students appreciate most.
Within the special education department at Washburn, the students have varying levels of disability. Some kids are able to read and compute math problems. Others have more profound developmental and physical challenges and may need someone to read to them, or help them get around in their wheelchair.
Patrick is one student with whom Lucy has worked for seven years. He is unable to talk and has developmental and physical disabilities. Grandma Lucy often reads to him, and works on his sensory motor development by rubbing different textures on his skin. She also likes to stroke his face and hair as he lays his head on her arm.
“He can’t tell me if he likes my touch, but I can tell,” explains Long. “And that makes all the difference. Sometimes, I’ll talk to him and he’ll laugh out loud. What a joy that is!”
Why is Grandma Lucy so effective?
“She has patience and time,” explains May Ross, special education teacher. “Unlike a teacher, she’s not distracted by the needs of paperwork. Her total attention is on the student.”
She added, “Seniors also have the authority of many years. Students listen to them and they appreciate having that extra ear and caring presence.”
Metro Lutheran readers may be good candidates to serve as Foster Grandparents. These individuals provide invaluable support to children and youth in treatment facilities, homeless shelters, schools and daycare centers.
Foster Grandparents must be 60 or older. Each receives a tax-free stipend, meal and transportation reimbursement, insurance, benefits, training and recognition. If you’re interested, call 1-888-205-3770.