CINCINNATI -- Anyone who has ever been a parent knows how tough the job can be, and it’s all the more difficult for single parents without family available to help.
A new program in Lower Price Hill called Community Grandparents is designed to make the job a bit easier.
Community Grandparents will connect single parents in the neighborhood with older adults who can help them reach specific goals and provide support as needed.
“It could be learning to cook or getting a plan together to buy a car or … getting ready to find employment,” said Karla Stanley, the Community Grandparent pilot project coordinator. “Community Grandparents is going to give that little extra helping hand for people who want to make their lives better for their families.”
Beth Borchers has signed on to be the program’s first volunteer grandparent and is waiting to be matched up with a family.
“I grew up without a lot of support,” said Borchers, who is from Dayton but recently moved to West Price Hill. “My family was not supportive, not kind, not loving, and I know how hard it is to really get things together and be successful without that.”
Community Matters, the nonprofit organization that is testing out the program, aims to link three families with three volunteer grandparents in the coming weeks. Stanley is responsible for recruiting the families and the volunteers and matching them up. Community Matters will gauge the program’s success based on how well the volunteer grandparents help the single parents reach the goals they set for themselves and their families.
“All this discussion that goes on about poverty doesn’t take into account that not everybody’s born on an equal footing,” Stanley said. “Single parenting or parenting in poverty is like sticky tape. It keeps you there.”
But even with all the help that Community Matters is hoping the volunteer grandparents can provide, there will be clearly defined boundaries for the program.
Respect, love and support
“No money changes hand. Nobody spends the night in anybody’s house. Nobody borrows anybody’s car,” Stanley said.
The grandparents will be able to offer very practical help, however, such as emergency childcare or transportation or picking up or dropping off kids at school.
“Not everyone has a mom to say, ‘Can you take the baby to the doctor for me. I’ve got to work,’ or ‘Can you take me here? The car’s broken down,’” Stanley said.
Borchers said she hopes to help a Lower Price Hill family learn more about healthy cooking, but she mostly wants to spend time with them and have fun.
“Just enjoying time together and laughing,” said Borchers, who will soon be 60 and has three grown children of her own. “I love kids. I think they’re a bright light. They are to be treated with respect and love and guided and supported.”
The key will be finding families who welcome that love and support without making them feel like they are being targeted because they “need help,” said Mary Delaney, executive director of Community Matters.
“At first sometimes people are a little hesitant,” Delaney said. “You don’t want to assume that people need help. You have to really get to know folks.”
That’s why Stanley’s work is so important, she said. Stanley lives in Lower Price Hill and knows people throughout the community. She has been talking with single parents in the neighborhood and potential volunteers to try to make the best possible matches.
“It’s a delicate balance,” Delaney said. “I think once people actually meet, that’s when the ‘click’ will happen.”
The right philosophy
The idea for the program was developed during an initiative called The Shift where teams of professionals met regularly over 12 weeks last year to flesh out ideas for programs to meet needs in the region.
Community Grandparents was one of three programs to come out of The Shift last year, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati committed money to the idea to help Community Matters test it.
United Way liked the idea of Community Matters piloting the program because of how the organization builds relationships in Lower Price Hill and works with residents to support their goals, said Mike Baker, United Way’s community impact director.
“That kind of philosophy really fit well with what we figured Community Grandparents needed to be,” Baker said.
After testing the program with three families and three volunteer grandparents, Community Matters plans to gauge how successful it is and whether changes should be made.
Ultimately, United Way hopes to learn from Community Matters’ work and possibly expand the program to other neighborhoods that could benefit from it, Baker said.
Stanley said she hopes the program can build upon the strengths of Lower Price Hill and the families that live there.
“There are all kinds of people who live here with all kinds of skills,” she said. “This is a rich, vibrant community.”
Community Grandparents aims to make it even stronger.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Childhood poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To read more stories about childhood poverty, go to www.wcpo.com/poverty.
To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.