‘Everybody needs someone ...’

By JENNIFER COHRON, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 6/17/17

Students in a local summer program are learning life skills from seniors, thanks to a new partnership between the Walker County Community Action Agency (WCCAA) and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

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‘Everybody needs someone ...’

Posted

Students in a local summer program are learning life skills from seniors, thanks to a new partnership between the Walker County Community Action Agency (WCCAA) and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

The Walker County RSVP office recently relocated to a 4,000-square-foot building on Fifth Avenue in Jasper that has been renovated by WCCAA.

WCCAA executive director Deidra Tatum said the agency needed a space that could house its nine-week summer program, which was held in Jasper Housing Authority’s gym from 2013 to 2016.

When Walker County RSVP coordinator Cindy Smith learned that office space was available, she saw an opportunity to expand RSVP’s intergenerational program.

“Our seniors want to work with kids. I also think it’s very important to teach kids about volunteerism at any early age,” Smith said.

RSVP volunteers will work with students in the program each Wednesday for one hour.

On a recent Wednesday morning, Jo Thomason helped students make no-sew blankets that will be donated to Walker Cancer Care Center, while Syble Keeton showed another group how to sew a button.

Smith said several male volunteers have also expressed an interest in showing the students how to construct a flower garden in the front of the building.

Tatum said the partnership with RSVP is not only an opportunity for the seniors to share some of their wisdom with the students but also to serve as surrogate grandparents.

“Everybody needs someone to help fill the space they are missing from not having a grandparent or grandchild in their life,” Tatum said.

WCCAA has hosted a summer program since 2010.

Around 10 students participated in the initial program, which focused exclusively on math and reading and was held at WCCAA’s office on 19th Street West.

This year’s enrollment includes 36 students between ages 4 and 15.

Those 7 and older completed a standardized math and literacy assessment at the beginning of the summer. They will evaluated again at the end of the program to document their progress.

Other activities include music, exercise and weekly field trips.

The program operates Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Supporters of this year’s summer program and the recent renovation include the Walker Area Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Summer Adventures in Learning, the City of Jasper and the Walker County Commission.