The month of May is Older Americans Month, and according to the Administration for Community Living, the theme for this year is “Make Your Mark,” which was selected to encourage and celebrate the numerous contributions older adults make to our communities.

For the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology’s (GSEP) Foster Grandparent Program, the Foster Grandparents who volunteer to be a part of the program have been making their mark for decades supporting the communities in which they live. The Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) is a national program which was created in 1965 with over 400 chapters across the United States that serve more than 250,000 special needs or at-risk youth.

Pepperdine University GSEP, led by Dean Helen Easterling Williams, has been a sponsor of FGP since 1972 working with 162 volunteers. All of the volunteers are over the age of 55, with the most senior volunteer at 93-years-old. This program partners with the Corporation for National and Community Service and gives low-income to extremely low-income senior community members within Los Angeles County the opportunity to volunteer with local youth ranging in age from infancy to 21 years old. Because of the excellent work that the Pepperdine FGP has been doing in the community, the program was recently recognized nationally on the Kelly Clarkson Show. Pepperdine’s Foster Grandparents have been so instrumental in working with the local schools and community organizations, that when the grandparents were in need of assistance, the Pepperdine FGP staff were ready and willing to support them.

During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that older adults were of higher risk of contracting the virus. In order to support the senior population that they work with on a regular basis, the Pepperdine University FGP staff started collecting donations, purchasing cleaning products and food, and distributing these items to their Foster Grandparent volunteers. Under the leadership of Dr. Shanetta Weatherspoon, director of the Pepperdine GSEP Foster Grandparent Program, FGP staff and supporters, including Administrative Assistant Monica Pereda and two graduate assistants, Nazli Bulbuloglu and Miyue Chen, have been making weekly wellness check-ins to all of the 162 Foster Grandparent volunteers. Due to the pandemic, the Foster Grandparents have been social distancing which has caused them to suffer from loneliness and has made it difficult for them to go to stores to purchase items that they need at home.

To alleviate some of these problems, Pepperdine’s FGP has partnered with a local organization, True Essence of Love, founded by Charlotte White, and has implemented her initiative of Putting Love to Work during this time of great need. Charlotte White and her team have donated over 140 bags of essential supplies for the Foster Grandparents. Each bag included toilet paper, cleaning supplies, food, and water for each Foster Grandparent volunteer. In recent weeks, Putting Love to Work and Pepperdine’s FGP have joined together to coordinate no-contact pick-ups and deliveries to each the Foster Grandparent volunteers.

From May 18th to May 29th, Pepperdine’s FGP staff will begin its second round of essential supply deliveries to the Foster Grandparent volunteers. Anyone who is interested in donating cleaning supplies, water, and/or non-perishable food, as well as volunteering to make deliveries to the Foster Grandparents within Los Angeles County can contact the Pepperdine Foster Grandparent Program at (310) 568-5596 or send an email to the FGP Administrative Assistant Monica Pereda ([email protected]).

To contribute financially to the Pepperdine FGP Emergency Fund during this crisis, use the link and designate “ER Fund” in the notes section. Contributions of time, food, supplies, and financial donations are greatly appreciated to support the Foster Grandparents who have been instrumental in the
success of Pepperdine FGP for so many years and are now in need of support themselves.