For more than a year, volunteers for the Charles City-based Foster Grandparents Program haven't been able to mentor and care for kids they serve in-person. They haven't been able to meet with parents or even each other.
Last Tuesday, members of the program, which covers 11 towns across the counties of Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Floyd and Mitchell, were able to meet for the first time since lockdowns and social distancing became the norm.
"The Grandparents had the opportunity to attend Zoom meetings every month but it is not the same as that in-person interaction," Foster Grandparent Program Director Jennifer Lantz said in a press release.
Members met at The Music Man Square in Mason City to hear from a Mercy One North Iowa Medical Center official about bloodborne safety (which the release said is an annual requirement for the program), scams targeting the elderly and a book on understanding and addressing behavioral issues.
According to the release from Lantz, infection prevention nurse Kim Overbeck told the members about how important it is to do routine handwashing and "reminded everyone to wash front and back of their hands while scrubbing under their nails."
As for the book, which is entitled 'Help for Billy,' Lantz wrote that the discussion on the work was beneficial in learning about children who need extra help and why it is that they behave in certain ways. "Whether it is behavioral issues or just a needing someone to help with the hard homework, children can flourish in the daycare centers and classrooms with a Foster Grandparent who cares about them and wants to listen to the child," Lantz wrote.
When Mason City Police Department Lieutenant Michael Lillquist spoke to the group, Lantz recapped that he told members that around 43% of the elderly are targets for scams.
"Advice given to the Grandparents was to be careful and if it sounds too good to be true, hang up right away, never send money and never give account numbers," Lantz wrote.
Along with the speakers, members were also able to win prizes. The program does take volunteers; those interested can call (641) 257-6327.