DEAR ABBY: You have encouraged adults to volunteer as mentors to young people. I'm writing to describe a program in our community that may serve as a model for others.
The program is called "Grandfriends." It's a partnership between our local senior center, which recruits the seniors; a local middle school, which selects the students; and our local hospital system, which provides funding for after-school activities. In other communities, the seniors might be recruited through a church, synagogue or other organization.
A counselor at the middle school identifies students who might benefit, then matches each student with a senior based on interest profiles each has filled out. The seniors and students are introduced at an after-school get-together. After that, they meet one-on-one after school once a week or so and do whatever the two of them want to do -- shopping, going for a snack, going to a game, doing homework, working on a computer or just talking. Once a month, we hold an after-school get-together at the school, featuring some type of craft project, often with a community service theme. (Last February, we made valentines to send to veterans.) We also organize group tours to local points of interest.
The real magic of the program is the one-on-one bond that forms between the students and seniors. I urge other communities to explore this idea.
Abby, I would be happy to respond to anyone who would like information on starting such a program in his or her community. -- JANE RADATZ, CO-COORDINATOR, GRANDFRIENDS PROGRAM, POWAY, CALIF.
DEAR JANE: Active seniors are an untapped resource, able to offer wisdom, humor, talent and love to young people who need it. I am sure that variations on the "Grandfriends" program are available in many cities. However, if there is none, those who are interested in starting one should send a business-size (No. 10) self-addressed stamped envelope to: Grandfriends, 18402 W. Bernardo Drive, San Diego, CA 92127.