Benn named Foster Grandparent of the Year

Sometimes all it takes for a child to finally leap over that one hurdle that’s been standing in their way is a person who believes in them – someone who will take the time to work with them, encourage them and help them along the way.

Most times that person is a child’s parent or teacher, but there is one group of people who are eager to spend their free time being that type of person in the lives of children across the area.

The Foster Grandparent Program has been educating and helping  children here locally for the past 39 years.

This past Thursday, the program held their annual recognition banquet at the A.W. Todd Centre in Russellville where they honored those who serve in and support the program.

They also gave out their top award for Foster Grandparent of the Year to this year’s recipient, Red Bay resident Peggy Benn, who serves as a foster grandparent in Dawn Wilemon’s kindergarten classroom at Red Bay School.

Benn has been with the Foster Grandparent Program for three years and said she couldn’t have made a better decision.

“I have been a bus diver, aide and substitute teacher at Red Bay for 35 years and I enjoy working with the children,” Benn said.

“I was ready for a change, and my friend, Margaret Matlock, is part of the Foster Grandparent Program and thought it would be something I would enjoy, too, so I decided to try it.

“It was a wonderful decision because I enjoy everything about being a foster grandparent. I love the kids, I love my teacher, Mrs. Wilemon, I love being able to help them all I can.

“One of the greatest feelings is when I child I’ve been working with finally catches on to what we’re teaching them. It’s so special to see it finally make sense and to see how happy they become.”

Benn said that after being part of the Foster Grandparent Program for three years, she has seen the benefits of what the program has to offer students and teachers.

“There are so many kids in every classroom, and teachers need help because they can’t be everywhere at once,” Benn said.

“There are always children who need extra help, and we can provide that for them and be an extra set of hands when a teacher needs it.

“I’m proud to be part of this program, and I’m so honored that I was nominated and chosen for this award.”

Been said all of her time spent as a foster grandparent has been spent working with Wilemon, who nominated Benn for the award.

“I nominated Peggy because she is one of the kindest, most thoughtful and helpful people I have ever known and I can’t think of anyone who would deserve this award more,” Wilemon said.

“Peggy has been a Godsend to my students and me since the fall of 2010. She greets each day with an optimistic attitude and my students adore her.”

Wilemon said Benn is an important part of her classroom and is always willing to do whatever is needed to help out.

“Peggy never has to be asked to do something with a child,” Wilemon said.

“She sees a need and does whatever is needed to help any child succeed. She works one-on-one with struggling students and encourages each child.

“When a child leaves ‘Ms. Peggy’s table,’ he or she leaves with a sense of success and accomplishment because Peggy will find something to praise the child about regardless of ability or circumstance.

“And when the children aren’t in the classroom, Peggy is doing other things to help me, like making copies, filing papers, grading papers and preparing work I have gathered for the following week. She is always a step ahead of the game.”

But Wilemon said that Benn’s helpfulness and kindness extends beyond the classroom, which is something she said made Benn the perfect candidate for the award.

“My father passed away unexpectedly in March of this year, and I looked up in the emergency room through tear-stained eyes and saw my friend, Peggy,” Wilemon said.

“She held me and cried with me. Then she wispered in my eay, ‘Don’t worry about school. I have already called the secretary and she will get your substitute. Do not go to school. I am going to your classroom now to get our work ready for next week.”

“I cannot explain to you how much this meant to me. Peggy has a heart for those around her and she is very deserving of this honor.”
Jessica Latham, director of the Foster Grandparent Program, said the program is dedicated to making sure compassionate, caring senior citizens are given the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young students, and Benn is a prime example of that.

“Ms. Been has been with the Foster Grandparent Program for three years, and she is very hard working and dedicated to the program,” Latham said.

“Ms. Been goes beyond her duties to make sure every child reaches his or her fullest potential, and I am honored to present her with the Foster Grandparent of the Year award for 2013.”

The Foster Grandparent Program serves the counties of Franklin, Colbert, Lauderdale, Marion and Winston, and Latham said they could always use more people who were willing to give back to the community by helping school-age children.
For more information about the Foster Grandparent Program, call 256-332-6800.

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