Senator Flanagan Celebrates Foster Grandparent Program

John J. Flanagan

July 18, 2006

As a strong supporter of the Federation of Organization's Foster Grandparent Program, Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) recently attended a special ceremony to honor all who participate in the program. Senator Flanagan had the opportunity to discuss the program with guest speakers Jenna Lee Ruf and Jessica Slack, who have both participated in the program.

The Foster Grandparent Program gives older adults the opportunity to earn extra income by working one-on-one with children who have special needs. Foster Grandparents are placed throughout Suffolk County in schools, day care centers, and other educational and rehabilitative settings. They provide the individualized attention and encouragement needed to assist a child in maximizing his or her potential for academic success.

Sponsored in Suffolk County by Federation of Organizations, the Foster Grandparent Program is a national program that pairs local senior citizen volunteers with at-risk children in schools, Head Start centers, preschools and other community locations. Currently over 150 Foster Grandparents serve as mentors and tutors to more than 700 children daily in over 50 sites throughout Suffolk County.

At the recent ceremony guest speakers Jenna Lee Ruf and Jessica Slack, two of the children who have benefited from this vital program, were given the ability to publicly thank their foster grandparents.

Jenna Lee Ruf, a second grader at Countrywood Primary School in South Huntington, captivated the crowd as she shared her appreciation for her foster grandmother Jo Sneden. "Grandma Jo always helps us with our practice pages and our math. She never misses a day of helping us and I hope she never does, because she is someone I can talk to all the time. I love her very much and she is an inspiration to me," stated Jenna Lee. She also performed a song in appreciation for her Foster Grandma.

This touching moment was followed by the amazing success story of Jessica Slack. Jessica, who now holds a B.A. in biochemistry, was mentored by Foster Grandma Dorothy Heinz. "The program gave me the extra attention and encouragement I needed to get my focus and direction on my school work. It made me realize the importance of education and that it was even fun! It also showed me why I shouldn’t be drawing on my exams. But the program did more then just direct my focus on academics, it gave me a life long friend." said Ms. Slack.

"Having the ability to work with and learn from a different generation offers all who participate in this program a great opportunity. That is what makes the Foster Grandparent Program so important and so very beneficial to our entire community. I applaud the efforts of the kids, of the seniors and of the Federation of Organizations in this important endeavor," stated Senator Flanagan.

For more information about the Foster Grandparent Program, residents can visit the Federation of Organizations web site at orcall 631-321-8229, extension 240.