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St. Vincent Foster Grandparent Program Celebrates 50 Years of Service during Pandemic

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Billings, MT - St. Vincent Healthcare has created meaningful relationships with local school districts for the past 50 years. Most notably, its Foster Grandparent Program has provided assistance to students struggling academically or emotionally. But when the pandemic created challenges for both associates and volunteers in hospitals throughout our nation, the Foster Grandparent Program felt this impact too.

The St. Vincent Healthcare Foster Grandparent Program has a wide age-range of volunteers, ranging from 55 to 92, who work wholeheartedly to ensure quality assistance for the students. This is part of an AmeriCorps Seniors national service program funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service. With some of the volunteers being vulnerable to catching COVID-19, this created an inability to serve in the classrooms — but this did not stop them from making a difference.

In a commitment to limit the transmission of the virus to students and themselves, these volunteers found a new way to assist students in need, remotely. Although they received only a few project requests from local schools, the Foster Grandparents created their own creative projects to deliver to students.

“Each month, our program either received assignments from teachers or we developed our own,” said Barb Brady, Director of St. Vincent’s Foster Grandparent Program. “Our Foster Grandparents then prepared packets that could be used as individual student assignments. I am so proud of their resilience and commitment to students throughout Montana.”

St. Vincent’s Foster Grandparent Program partnered with Explorers Academy Head Start to make this possible. Since October 2020, 23 Foster Grandparents prepared student packets, which helped 230 students throughout 23 classrooms, including two that were virtual. These projects were created to help advance students’ knowledge for STEM and aid in literacy support.

Although the 50th anniversary of St. Vincent’s Foster Grandparent Program may look a little different this year as we continue to take precautions during the pandemic, the Foster Grandparents met on May 6 at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center for an in-service training day.

St. Vincent’s Foster Grandparent Program is actively looking for new volunteers. To sign up or learn more, email barbara.brady@sclhealth.org.

About SCL Health

SCL Health is a faith-based, nonprofit healthcare organization dedicated to improving the health of the people and communities we serve. Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, our health network provides comprehensive, coordinated care through eight hospitals, more than 180 physician clinics, home health, hospice, mental health, and safety-net services in Colorado and the Montana Wyoming region.