Foster Grandparent program needs volunteers

It’s looking for people 55 and older to volunteer at sites such as schools or youth organizations.

EVERETT — A program that connects older adults with children and teens who need extra support has returned to Snohomish and King counties after a two-year hiatus.

But there’s a shortage of volunteers here.

“We just haven’t gotten anybody from Everett,” said Adelheid Arbogast, director of the Foster Grandparent program for Homage Senior Services.

She’s looking for people 55 and older to volunteer at sites such as schools or youth organizations.

Homage took over the grant for the federally funded program in October. Foster Grandparents had been run for years locally by Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, but the organization stopped sponsoring the program in 2016, at the time citing rising expenses.

There are about 20 foster grandparents in King County, Arbogast said. In Snohomish County, there are two, both taking a break for the summer.

She’s hoping to reach more retirees looking for a way to keep busy and give back. Low-income seniors can receive a small stipend. It doesn’t count toward the income limit for other benefits, such as health care, Arbogast said. They must commit to at least 15 hours a week, complete 20 hours of training and pass a background check.

Though rallying volunteers has been hard, finding places that need them is easy. Volunteer tasks could include helping keep an eye on preschool children or teaching homeless teens a craft. If there’s something a volunteer is interested in, Arbogast can usually find them a spot.

Vicky Garner, 67, is a foster grandparent in Seattle. She helps students in a reading program at Washington Middle School. She leads literacy circles where they read and talk about books. Earlier this week, she read “I am Malala” with a middle school girl. It led to conversations about how history tends to repeat itself, and how people can create change.

Garner lives maybe three-quarters of a mile from the school, she said. She started volunteering about 10 years ago.

“That was my thing,” she said. “I am African American and I just read a lot in papers and articles about how young African American males were not performing at standard (in school), and I thought, you know, why not go and help out?”

Her grandchildren were growing up and didn’t need her to help them with school anymore, she said. She spent a lot of time at home, where she gets around in a wheelchair. She’d started to feel sorry for herself, she said.

Her mood brightened when she began volunteering. At first, she was nervous to work with kids. One of the first students she worked with was a young girl who struggled to pay attention long enough to read. Years later, Garner ran into that former student at a concert. The girl had grown into a young woman who was tutoring in music and attending University of Washington Bothell.

“Even the hardest kids that you think, ‘Oh they don’t want to listen to me.’ Actually, they do,” she said “They’re not as hard as you think they are, sometimes.”

She knows that story firsthand. Garner’s family moved from Texas to Washington when she was young. She had a rough couple of years in middle school. Her grades slumped. But her eighth grade teacher saw something in her, and helped her get back on track.

“All I needed was that encouragement from her and I blossomed,” Garner said. “That’s what I always try to be. I want the kids to know that you might not think it now, but I see your potential. I see your greatness. I see you becoming someone. I see you.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439;

Learn more

To volunteer as a Foster Grandparent, go to or call Adelheid Arbogast at 425-514-3188.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mike Evans, Blue Heron Canoe Family patriarch, asks permission to navigate the Coast Salish waters as paddlers prepare to depart on their two week journey to Lummi Island. (Isabella Breda / The Herald)
Pandemic disrupted tradition, but not their love of the sea

The Blue Heron Canoe family has embarked on a two-week journey, launching from the Edmonds waterfront.

Laura Smith, with husband Tom, makes Danielle Lam laugh after being presented with a check for $10,000 from The Prize Patrol from Publishers Clearing House on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
‘Holy roses!’ A day in the life of the legendary Prize Patrol

Publishers Clearing House surprised a Mukilteo couple with a sweepstakes prize, flowers and balloons.

Michael Fong
Somers taps Seattle deputy mayor to lead COVID recovery

Mike Fong will oversee how Snohomish County uses its $160 million in federal relief dollars.

Man, 20, hit and killed in Lynnwood, another badly injured

They were part of a group riding bicycles, scooters and skateboards. They were hit by a pickup truck.

Former EvCC standout athlete killed in Spokane shooting

Jakobe Ford, 22, was named to the Northwest Athletic Conferences All-Decade teams for 2010-19.

Lane closure set for section of Highway 527 near Canyon Park

The Washington State Department of Transportation is cleaning stormwater retention vaults.

Daniel Scott (center, in green jacket) and Eddie Block (bottom right) are shown in a video before the Proud Boys and other rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C.
Arlington Proud Boy ‘Milkshake’ indicted in Capitol siege

Daniel Lyons Scott faces 10 federal charges, including assaulting federal officers.

Familiar faces making their mark in City Council contests

In Lynnwood, a 21-year-old is winning, while in Edmonds only 81 votes separate three hopefuls.

Incumbent Everett, Snohomish mayors seem headed for November

After early counting, Cassie Franklin and John Kartak appeared to be headed for the general election.

Most Read