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How to Get a ‘Kid Fix’

Opportunities abound to volunteer with children

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

No grandchildren? No problem. If you lack grandchildren or yours live too far away to visit often, you can get your “kid fix” through any of the many local opportunities to help children. In addition to benefiting the children, you’ll receive the satisfaction of giving back to the community’s youngest residents.

Ann Cunningham, executive director of Rochester OASIS, said that the organization offers a few intergenerational tutoring programs that pair up youngsters with mature adults. The adult mentors can help them reading, math or whatever school subject needs more one-on-one help.

“Many hands are involved in educating our kids and tutoring is a way to give back,” Cunningham said. “Mature adults have a level of patience that many parents don’t have.”

At Lifespan’s Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), coordinators help match mature adults’ skills, interests and experiences with volunteer positions at nonprofit organizations in Monroe or Livingston counties.

Deborah Palumbos, director of RSVP, said that mentoring is among the volunteer opportunities.

One RSVP program, Generation Two, pairs adults with three different children for a half hour each per week at school. These mentors help with reading, math or other academic skills.

“Any extra time you spend with a child is beneficial one-on-one contact,” Palumbos said. “It’s a teacher’s dream for every child to have special focus.”

Many of the children in these programs need remedial school help, so the patience of a mature, caring adult can make a big difference in their ability to master material that challenges them.

Not into tutoring? At the Maplewood, Westside, and Eastside branches of Greater Rochester YMCA, you can help children grow fruits and vegetables at the intergenerational community garden. Overseen by a volunteer master gardener, the program is run through older adult volunteers who guide children interested in gardening.

“It’s great to see how this whole project has brought people together and helps people live healthy,” said Laura Fasano, vice-president of healthy living for the Greater Rochester YMCA. “It’s a unique partnership.”

The produce benefits urban areas where fresh produce is hard to obtain.

Fasano added that YMCA locations across the country call Greater Rochester YMCA to learn how they, too, can begin a similar program.

“We hear all the time, ‘I didn’t come to make friends’ but they end up doing so very organically,” Fasano said.

For more ideas on how to help children, try these ideas:

• Ask at your place of worship. Many clergy want more volunteers to help lead children’s classes or programs.

• Reach out to your local library branch about any opportunities.

• Contact the Monroe County Foster Grandparent program at 585-288-0021.

• Call Friends of Strong at 585-275-2420 to ask about visiting pediatric patients admitted to Golisano Children’s Hospital. Opportunities range from rocking infants to chatting with teens.

• See if your local elementary or middle school needs volunteers.