Foster Grandparents are placed with local schools and assist teachers by providing extra support to students. They help children learn to read, provide one-on-one tutoring and guide children at a critical time in their lives.
April 23, 2021
By: Cassidy Belus
Working with children can be intimidating for many of us, but for Orrin, a retired para educator, that’s his favorite part about volunteering.
Over the past six school years he’s served as a Foster Grandparent at MAS through AmeriCorps Seniors. Foster Grandparents are placed with local schools and assist teachers by providing extra support to students. They help children learn to read, provide one-on-one tutoring and guide children at a critical time in their lives.
“All the kids are great. You get to see them at different stages of their life,” Orrin said. “And you know, the little ones, there’s no filter on what they say. By the time they get to be seventh or eighth grade, you know, they’re more circumspective about that,” he added with a laugh.
During the pandemic, Foster Grandparents have been unable to serve in the classroom. The change has been difficult for students and volunteers alike. However, Foster Grandparents have found new ways to support students and teachers, such as participating in remote learning groups, helping prepare materials, and sending clips of themselves reading books.
This past year, Orrin has continued to serve at St. Joe’s as a crosswalk guard two mornings a week. Now that vaccinated Foster Grandparents have been cleared to return to in-person service, he's looking forward to being able to volunteer in the classroom again.
“I don’t have any kids of my own but, you know, people ask me ‘well, do you have any kids?’ and I say ‘oh, I got about 200-and-some."
With his love for his students it’s no surprise that he’s been recognized for his mentorship and tutoring. In 2020 Orrin was the “Over 55” Abby M. Zent Service Recognition honoree. And though he’s been a dedicated Foster Grandparent for six years, Orrin has actually volunteered with Missoula Aging Services (MAS) for nearly 10 years via RSVP.
“I try to stay active and engaged,” he said. “I don’t like to sit around for too long.”
RSVP partners Missoula County agencies and nonprofits to provide a diverse array of volunteer opportunities to choose from. Since 2017, Orrin has been serving at the Missoula Food Bank with RSVP. Four days a week he works at the Kid’s Table. This has been particularly important during the pandemic as remote learning means some children are missing out on lunch.
For how much he gives, Orrin still says “I get as much or maybe more out of it than I give.”
He hopes others are encouraged to try volunteering. “I’d just say to people ‘try it. Don’t be afraid. Just give it a try. You’d be really surprised by how much you’d enjoy it.’”
For more information about volunteer opportunities with Missoula Aging Services and AmeriCorps Seniors, click here.