Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay is a nonprofit founded in 1984 that provides solutions to community challenges by engaging volunteers age 55+. They help disadvantaged children, isolated elders, overwhelmed caregivers, adults with disabilities, struggling veterans and hungry families. Their volunteers also benefit from staying active and purposeful.
Volunteers who are passionate about helping children serve as tutors and mentors to help improve literacy and social-emotional skills. “The power of a caring adult can change a child’s life,” says Seniors in Service CEO Robin Ingles. “Our ‘Foster Grandparent’ volunteers are trained to provide ongoing support that all kids need to succeed.”
Before COVID-19, the Foster Grandparent volunteers provided at-risk children with in-class academic tutoring and ongoing support. Each year, independent teacher assessments showed at least 95% of children served improved in their individual challenge areas.
But improving academic performance isn’t enough. They added research-based Social Emotional Learning (SEL) tools and methods to help challenged kids face adversity in productive ways. In collaboration with Frameworks of Tampa Bay, a local nonprofit recognized for SEL expertise, they provide volunteers with SEL training, coaching and tools that they in turn use to help students build resiliency needed to succeed in school and in life.
Now COVID-19 has created even more challenges for children who were already struggling to cope. Both in-class and digital learners need a supportive presence to navigate these challenging times. They have armed their volunteers with tablets, internet and expert training to tutor kids virtually. COVID-19 made evident the digital inclusion gap for seniors, especially for those who are low-income and reside in the same neighborhoods as the marginalized populations they serve. In addition to helping kids, equipping their volunteers with technology also benefits them personally, providing access to digital services like telehealth to help them stay healthy and safe. CEO Robin Ingles shares how SEL and computer training is benefitting two generations as the adults and children advance simultaneously. “It’s not easy, but everyone’s learning and we’re doing it together.”
Volunteers like “Grandma” Annie are helping children like Lyla with remote learning. “Grandma” Annie is still there – helping Lyla with sight words to build literacy and Social Emotional Learning skills that inspire confidence and resilience. The results? Lyla’s sweet thank you note adorned with hearts says it best.
Become a volunteer or donate on our Seniors in Service website. Also visit the Seniors in Service Facebook page to learn more about their community impact.