ENID â€” The food isn't real, but the love certainly is.
Using artificial toy food, little ones with smiles on their faces and sometimes sleep still in their eyes will bring Dorothy L. Walker an egg and piece of bacon.
â€œAnd I'll make like I'm eating it and drinking my coffee,â€ she said.
Both sides of this give-and-take are playing their role out of love.
You see, Walker has devoted 26,000 hours to the state Department of Human Service's Foster Grandparent Program since April 1987.
By comparison, a person could make about 305 round trips by car from New York to Los Angeles in that many hours.
In the Foster Grandparent program, an individual must be at least 55 years old, enjoy working with children, be in reasonably good health and able to serve a minimum of 15 hours per week.
Benefits include a $2.65 per hour tax-free stipend if income eligible, paid leave and holidays, a free annual physical, transportation assistance and a free daily meal.
But we've already established why Walker participates.
â€œI love children,â€ she said. â€œYou'd be surprised how a child will make your life a lot better. It makes you look forward to something every day. There are children who really need you.â€
It's not like Walker doesn't have children of her own. In fact, she raised five children, has 23 grandchildren, 10 great-
But not all of those live close by and she wants to be a grandmother to as many children as possible.
Walker has served as a foster grandparent around Enid, including several years at a day care and currently at Hoover Elementary School.
She helps the teacher, whether that means reading to the children, dancing with them for exercise, or just listening.
They'll read about â€œTom Turkey,â€ use cookie cutters to create fake cookies to play with, or they'll â€œtell me stories of their little lives.â€
When â€œMama Dotâ€ enters the room, faces light up and children act as though they hadn't seen her in years.
Some have considered her a friend from the first time they met.
Others needed extra attention.
In one case, a 2-year-old girl wouldn't acknowledge anyone and when they tried to walk with her, she'd go a few steps and then sit down.
So Walker decided to meet her where she was. She too would stop right there and read a book to the little girl.
Before long, they were walking the hall together, with no stops, and when they returned to the room, they'd watch cartoons.
Some people wouldn't have the patience, but Walker feels blessed to have the opportunity to give of her time and love.
â€œI feel like this is a calling on my life; it's what God wants me to do,â€ she said. â€œI've always asked for a long, blessed life and I asked the Lord to help me be useful. I don't want to just live in this world and do nothing.
â€œHe's shown me what He wants me to do.â€
TO LEARN MORE
information about the state Department of Human Service's Foster Grandparent