Little Michael was facing his third brain surgery. His parents were told that if Michael could remember anything from his past when he woke up, that the surgery was what he needed. When Michael woke up, he saw his parents and then he asked for Granny G.
Granny G. wasn’t his biological grandmother but was Gloria Swindle, 75, a volunteer in the AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent Program, formerly sponsored by Milestone Senior Services. After retiring from Summit Polymers, Swindle started volunteering with the program working at two different schools, including Curious Kids Preschool in Portage.
“I learned that these kids need a grandparent in their lives,” she said. “Seeing how kids react, you can tell they don’t have a grandparent in their lives.” She enjoyed every aspect of the program, most importantly making a difference in their lives. “I just loved reading to them, playing with them,” she said. “They went on trips and stuff, and I went with them. It was just the joy of being around kids.”
When the preschoolers couldn’t say her first name, she became Granny G. So when Michael asked for Granny G., his parents arranged to take him to the school so he could see her. “That just touched my heart,” she said. “All the other teachers had been there before me, but he only asked to see me out of all the teachers.”
Another parent approached her one day at school and said she had asked her daughter who her favorite teacher was. The answer: Granny G. “I didn’t know they thought that much of me,” Swindle said.
When the Foster Grandparent Program was discontinued in Kalamazoo, she began volunteering with the Senior Companion Program of AmeriCorps Seniors. She has 11 different older adult clients whom she contacts every day except Wednesday to see how they are doing. Because of the pandemic, she can’t visit them in their homes, so calls them instead
“I find out what kind of help they need and if I can’t help them, I call Milestone,” she said. “Some of the clients don’t have any problems and just want to have someone to talk to,” she said.
Swindle encourages other seniors to volunteer. “Instead of sitting at home looking at the walls, there’s a program out there you can participate in,” she said. “It is something to keep your mind going instead of just sitting there doing nothing.”
Even when she isn’t volunteering, Swindle keeps busy. She takes care of her husband, Hugh Malory, an army veteran who uses a wheelchair and a walker. She has two daughters, one in Battle Creek and one in Kalamazoo, five grandkids and seven great grandkids. Her youngest daughter passed away four years ago. She serves as a deaconess and an usher at Friendship Baptist Church in Kalamazoo.
Swindle says she’s never been one to sit home and that she always wants to do something. Because of her drive to be active through volunteering, children and seniors reap the benefits.
Milestone Senior Services (previously known as Senior Services of Southwest Michigan) is an AmeriCorps Seniors grantee. AmeriCorps Seniors empowers people age 55 and older to serve their communities. RSVP helps people find a volunteer opportunity that fits their passion. There are currently opportunities in Kalamazoo County and a few in Calhoun County. Volunteers are needed with Meals on Wheels, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, Telephone Reassurance for Seniors, Milestone Home Repair, and more. Regular, flexible schedules available. Contact RSVP at 269-382-0515 or apply to volunteer at www.milestoneseniorservices.org.
By Phyllis Rose, Freelance Writer, Editor, Milestone Senior Services Volunteer