Gateway Foster Grandparents reconnect during trying times

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  Sometimes in the most difficult of times, the most amazing things happen.

  Gateway Community Action Partnership’s Foster Grandparents experienced a togetherness during the current COVID-19 pandemic that was as unseen and unexpected as the virus itself.

  Working with www.lifebio.org, Gateway’s Foster Grandparents were able to bridge the cyber gap to reconnect and offer each other support. Life Bio provided free access to an easy to use telephone platform, MyHelloLine, each Thursday afternoon for four weeks in late May through mid-June.

  Foster Grandparents participated weekly in themed discussions. A Spanish language support session from 2 to 3 p.m. weekly with an English language version from 3 to 4 p.m. weekly.

  Natalia Uribe, Lead Director, of Gateway’s Foster Grandparent Program, noted that the age group (55-80 years) targeted traditionally has digital challenges that are coupled with low-income status that further limits connectivity.

  Life Bio made the linkage via phone or computer free to approximately 90 participants in the two weekly sessions during the four-week period and that in addition to offering support, the sense of isolation was reduced and the opportunity to reconnect provided. The program had 50% of its volunteers participate in the weekly calls.

  “Many of the volunteers grew up in the same areas years ago, and in getting to talk, they realized that as younger people, they did a lot of the same things together and went to the same places,” Uribe said. “Getting to know each other again really was beneficial for them.”

  Uribe noted the four-week sessions are in addition to the program’s bi-weekly contacts with Foster Grandparents and information contained in the sessions was kept confidential.

  Additional program support came from www.encore.org who provided a space for organizations to connect through a Zoom webinar in April titled Intergenerational Connections During COVID-19, where Life Bio CEO & Founder Beth Sanders and Uribe were able to connect.

  Years ago, Sanders interviewed her own grandmother on an old tape recorder. Sanders watched as her grandmother “lit up” as she shared priceless memories. She saw her grandmother for the first time as a whole person. She was once a little girl, a teenager, a one-room schoolhouse teacher, and a young mom. She was more than just grandma. That was Sanders’ inspiration for LifeBio.

  Program staff received considerable positive feedback on the weekly calls.

  “During this Coronavirus Pandemic, affecting the whole Earth, we need peace. Thank you for the “Hello Line” where even for an hour we can have peace,” wrote Laura Powell, a Salem County resident and volunteer in the Swedesboro, Gloucester County Center.

  So, during an unprecedented time of fear, isolation and digital divides, Gateway, in conjunction with LifeBio and encore.org, reassured and reconnected a generation.

  Most amazing in a most difficult situation.

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