Program that recruits Oklahoma seniors to teach youngsters switches sponsorship

After 40 years, Foster Grandparent Program switches sponsorship to Oklahoma City-based Sunbeam Family Services.
By Paighten Harkins, Staff Writer Modified: July 29, 2014 at 11:03 am •  Published: July 28, 2014

Helen Turner doesn’t see her biological grandchildren often, but when school is in session, she sees her foster grandchildren at Rancho Village Elementary School almost every day.

After 16 years of working with the Foster Grandparent Program, sometimes she loses track of those she has fostered.

“Some of them, I don’t even know them anymore, because they’re so grown up. Some of them kind of change their personalities,” Turner said.

Turner has been volunteering in the program, which brings seniors into elementary schools to teach children who need extra help, ever since a friend suggested it when the two were chatting at church one day.

New sponsoring agency

This school year, the program will be in different hands. After being sponsored by the state Department of Human Services for about 40 years, the program is now coordinated through Sunbeam Family Services, an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit.

Sunbeam Family Services focuses on helping the poor and working poor in communities by providing r counseling, early childhood, foster care and senior services. Since Sunbeam already had several programs in place for seniors, sponsoring the Foster Grandparent Program seemed like a good idea, said Patrick O’Kane, director of senior services for Sunbeam.

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At a glance

Foster Grandparent Program volunteers by city/town

Oklahoma City: 20

Enid: 14

Edmond: 4

Midwest City: 3

Perry: 3

Spencer: 3

Tulsa: 3

Yukon: 3

El Reno: 2

Guthrie: 1

Mustang: 1

Sapulpa: 1

TOTAL: 58

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How to help

Donating and volunteering

To donate to Sunbeam Family Service’s Foster Grandparent Program, go to the website at sunbeamfamilyservices.org. You can also mail in donations or drop off donations at 616 NW 21, Oklahoma City, OK 73103.

To volunteer, call Sunbeam Family Services at 528-7721. Volunteers must be 55 or older and live below the poverty level.

... Every day is a new day.”

Helen Turner,
Foster Grandparent Program volunteer

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