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Winner of Touchstone Energy Community Award

“She’s just a blessing to us,” said Isanti Primary School Principal Shane Dordal, smiling at the woman fondly known throughout his building as Grandma Geneva. “She is an outstanding role model for our kids daily.”

Geneva is a volunteer in the Catholic Charities Central MN Foster Grandparent (FG) program, which was recently named the ECE Touchstone Energy® Community Award winner for 2017.

Numbers validate the positive impact the program has on the reading fluency of students, but the smiles, hugs and happiness it brings to everyone involved can’t easily be counted and measured.

“I was retired, but I wasn’t tired,” said Geneva. “I saw an ad in the newspaper for this program, and I called. That was 14 years ago, and I haven’t regretted it for a minute. Each child has a different personality, which makes it challenging but fun. It never gets boring.”

Geneva is one of more than 50 Foster Grandparents who works one-on-one with students in 12 public schools and non-profit educational programs in ECE’s territory. The volunteers receive a small stipend and mileage reimbursement and commit at least 15 hours per week to the program. Geneva spends about 27 hours each week helping first and second graders master words and sounds to improve their reading ability.

Pat Braun is an area supervisor with the FG program. When volunteers apply, she works to place them at the grade level with which they’re comfortable and in a school or non-profit setting close to their home. The hours are flexible to accommodate vacations, appointments and other commitments.

“We want it to be the best match possible for our volunteers, our schools and the students,” said Stacy Lund, FG program director.

As much as she loves the time spent with the students, Geneva said the program has also helped her connect with other retirees.

“We have monthly in-service training with other Foster Grandparents. We’re always learning something new, and we really enjoy getting together. I’m able to get out, be with young teachers and kids, other volunteers…it’s great!” she said.  

The Touchstone Energy Community Award recognizes a local organization that is making a difference in its community. As ECE’s winner, the Catholic Charities Central MN Foster Grandparent program will receive a $500 cash prize and will be recognized at the co-op’s April 19 annual meeting. The organization will also be entered in competition for the statewide Touchstone Energy Community Award, which has a cash prize of $1,000.

Foster Grandma Geneva, front, pictured with FG Area Supervisor
Pat Braun, Program Director Stacy Lund, and Principal Shane Dordal.

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