IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - It's a program many people don't know even exists. When they do find out about it, they get the wrong impression of what it does and who it serves. Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz went to the classroom to see what the Foster Grandparents Program of Southeast Idaho does and to 'Pay It Forward.'
"It's misunderstood because it sounds like a health and welfare program, which it's not. We don't do foster care. We do tutoring and mentoring," said director Lori Murdock.
The tutoring and mentoring happens in 35 of our area schools. They currently have 56 elderly volunteers in nine different southeast Idaho counties. Part of a requirement for volunteers is 15 to 16 hours a week, but that's one of their biggest challenges, along with funding.
"It's hard to find not just volunteers, volunteers that are willing to make that big of a commitment," said Murdock.
A lot of their volunteers have lost a spouse, so it fills a bit of a void for them.
"Self esteem on both sides. We've actually seen it in our volunteers too, changes in our volunteers, because they have that sense of purpose back," said Murdock.
Shirley Cowell is one of the volunteers. She used to teach school in New York, but after her husband died, she needed something to occupy her time. She's been volunteering in this program for 14 years now.
"It's been a need, and a gratifying need for me, to help children and see how well they do, even with a child that needs extra help," said Cowell.
"As a teacher, I have 24 students and it is just hard from me to really provide that one on one time with them each day. So this program is magical," said Shera Plum.
"If I don't know a word, she helps me," said Kiera, a second-grader in Plum's class.
"I just like it," said classmate Bridger.
Then they will really like when we 'Pay It Forward.'
"Lori, how are you?" said Kory Carling with Mountain America Credit Union.
"Hi," said Murdock.
"Good, I'm Kory and I'm with Mountain America Credit Union."
"Oh, it's nice to meet you," said Murdock.
"We've heard about your organization and what you're doing for the children. And I'm here today to 'Pay It Forward'. So I've brought with me today, $500 in cash," said Carling.
"Oh my," said Murdock.
"That we hope will help you continue your impact on the lives of these students," said Carling.
"Oh, I don't know what to say, but being a nonprofit it is so difficult to operate, so thank you so very much," said Murdock.
"It's our pleasure," said Carling.
"Wow!" said Murdock.
"Keep up the good work," said Carling.
The foster grandparents work with the students on more than just reading. Plum said they tutor in math and other learning skills, just whatever one-on-one time the teacher needs help with.
We visited Linden Park Elementary in Idaho Falls for this story, but if the foster grandparents program is not in your child's school, ask about it with their teacher or administration.
If you would like to become a volunteer, or you know of someone who could benefit from it, contact the Foster Grandparents Program of Southeast Idaho at 208-785-8454 or you can click here for more information.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "Pay It Forward" on the right side of our website and fill out the form, or send an email to Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz at email@example.com.