NOVI, MI (January 26, 2017) – Each time Helen Weingarden talks about Fox Run retirement community's year-round Adopted Grandparents program, her face lights up. "If you love children, this is a rewarding experience," she says. The program brings together volunteer grandmas and grandpas from Fox Run with 4th graders from Franklin Road Christian School next door. The groups take turns hosting one another for monthly activities that vary.
When Fox Run opened 13 years ago a 4th grade parent gave the class flowers to take as a welcome gift to their new neighbors. Teacher Geri Yost and the kids delivered them in person. Yost, who expected to find a nursing home, left surprised by the vibrant community she actually encountered. She proposed an inter-generational program to Fox Run's staff and received an enthusiastic 'thumbs-up.'
Today, about a dozen adopted grandparents and twice as many children are involved. Grandmas Helen Weingarden and Barb Birmingham, and Grandpa Roy Birmingham, who were among the first residents to join the program seven years ago, still participate."
"We find the interaction with the kids to be lots of fun," says Grandma Helen. "They're so excited when they come here. They love to see you, and they run up and give you a hug."
A poetry class is part of the program. An adopted grandma reads poems to the kids and explains how to write them. Then the adopted grandparents help the kids with ideas and encourage them in their efforts. The children write poems on the spot, copy them, add drawings back at school, then send the poems to Fox Run where they are displayed near the cafe.
Each new crop of 4th graders has high expectations for the get-togethers because the 5th graders have clued them in. This past year's spring activity was a surprise and had the kids hanging over their seats with excitement. That's because a Fox Run staff member, illusionist Jon Millheim, put on a magic show in Fox Run's performing arts theater. He cut off a staff person's arm, made pennies appear out of nowhere, and pulled rabbits out of hats.
The end-of-school-year flower planting at the Friendship Garden at Fox Run is a much-anticipated tradition. The kids kick off their shoes and socks, get down on their hands and knees, and with guidance from the adopted grandparents, plant annuals as a gift to the community.