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Foster Grandparents Program Seeks Volunteers

Looking for a way to give back to the community while working with children who need your help? If you're 55 or older, the Foster Grandparent Program might be for you.

The national program, administered locally through Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging, is seeking volunteers to mentor and work with children throughout the Richmond region, including Henrico County.

Volunteers work with children at public or non-profit agencies, such as public schools, faith-based daycare centers, Head Start programs, hospitals or infant care centers, among others. This year, in addition to many locations in the City of Richmond, volunteers are expected to serve at Henrico's Pinchbeck Elementary and St. Joseph's Villa.

The program "is designed to engage folks who have a lot of wisdom and experience and who are caring and a little bit outgoing," said Program Manager Charlene Cole.

The children served by the program are special-needs or exceptional education students, some of whom are affected by autism, ADD or hearing or visual impairments. Foster grandparents spend between 20 and 40 hours a week working with their children, helping with everything from mentoring students in school settings, assisting with classwork or reading skills and serving as role models to dressing, feeding or singing to children in hospitals or infant care settings.

The program is funded through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, and as a result, each volunteer receives a modest hourly stipend for their efforts, Cole said. This year, the program has 57 spots to fill locally – most of which will be claimed by existing volunteers but about 8 to 10 of which will be open for new volunteers.

Becoming a foster grandparent through the program involves some effort on the part of volunteers – each must complete a 20-hour training course and a background check; meet certain income requirements; and spend a minimum of 20 hours per week with a child. But the rewards, Cole said, can be life-changing. She recounted the story of one longtime volunteer who was considering whether to continue with the program when he heard someone call his name in a store one day. He turned and saw a 17-year-old girl he didn't recognize at first – until she told him that he had mentored her through the program years ago and was preparing to start her first year of college.

"There are tons of stories like that," Cole said.

Program officials make every effort to place volunteers in a region, or even at a specific location they request, if possible, Cole said.

Because of the time commitments involved, "it takes people who are committed to working with children," she said.

The average age of foster grandparents in the local program is about 76, Cole said, with one participating who is in her early 90s. But in recent years, younger volunteers have gotten involved and many are interested in mentoring older students, she said.

As part of the program, transportation to and from the volunteer locations is provided free of charge, as are meals for the volunteers and annual physical examinations.

For details about the program, call 343-3047.


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

New Italian restaurant opens in Short Pump

Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.

Henrico native to appear on Travel Channel show


A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”

The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.

The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.

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