When Evelyn Schmidt started with the Charles City chapter of the Foster Grandparent program in 1990, she went to serve at the local St. John Christian Preschool. Already in her mid-60s, Schmidt would teach kids how to tie their shoes or learn colors and letters. If they wanted to play, she would play with them.
For 30 years, Schmidt's involvement was unabated. Now, after three decades, at the age of 96, she's stepping away from her service.
A press release from Jennifer Lantz, the director of the Foster Grandparent program that serves Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Floyd and Mitchell Counties, said that Schmidt was influenced to make the difficult decision after testing positive for COVID-19 and noticing that she was getting more worn down when she would do work. "I don’t know if it’s from the virus or my age," she was quoted as joking in the release.
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The release also included effusive praise from St. John's current preschool director Whittney Franke.
"We can’t even tell you how many little hands and feet she’s helped paint or trace or cut out," Franke was quoted. "She brought countless smiles and laughs to our preschoolers' faces. She was always on the floor playing with the kids (even at age 96). Thank you, Grandma, on behalf of all the people you’ve touched here at SJCP including the staff over the last 30 years. Happy Retirement!"
According to Lantz's release, Schmidt was the longest-serving grandparent in the program and was recognized for that service by the AmeriCorps Seniors Professional Network. The local chapter also honored Schmidt with a deluge of cards and flowers.
"We hope she enjoys her retirement and knows no one can ever replace her in our hearts," Lantz wrote.
Foster Grandparents is a national organization that has been running in some form or fashion since 1965.
Lantz has said previously that the local chapter cares for about 1,500 kids from early morning to early evening by at least 40 foster grandparents who are 55 or older. Volunteers get a stipend for their work and get to go on trips with the kids.
Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Jared.McNett@globegazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.