Volunteer of the Month: Bringing seniors, children together

RAPID RIVER – Children and seniors have been coming together through the Upper Peninsula Foster Grandparent program, but without the help of Cindy Brock, who is the president of the Upper Peninsula Foster Grandparent Foundation, fewer children would be able to experience the benefits of this mentoring program. For her work in the community, Brock has been selected as the Daily Press Volunteer of the Month.

Brock, a retired Michigan State University Extension educator and former Delta County Extension director who lives in Rapid River, is involved in a variety of community projects, but the majority of her time is spent coordinating the Foster Grandparent Foundation.

“We are a separate entity from the Foster Grandparent program, a lot of times people get that a little confused,” said Brock of the foundation.

Technically, Brock is involved with both the program and the foundation. The program, which Brock works with as a member of the Policy Advisory Council, sends seniors to schools to mentor children and help them with their school work. The foundation supports these efforts by raising money to offset shrinking government funding.

“It seems like (Mary Bunnin, program director,) is always reduced a little bit at the federal level, so it’s important for in-kind money to be raised,” said Brock.

Brock has had a long relationship with the Foster Grandparent Program. Her mother, Georgie Safford, was the director of the program when it began in 1978.

In the early 1980s, Safford spoke about the program to a local Kiwanis club that presented her with a check for $50 for the program. Following the donation, Brock and her mother began to brainstorm about fundraising.

“‘You know mom, you have to raise so much in kind for the program locally,'” Brock recalled telling her mother. “‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we started some kind of an endowment or some kind of foundation?'”

From that original $50 donation, the foundation has grown to $213,700. The first grant given to the program was for $300 but recent grants have topped $16,000.

Working from a home office in her basement, Brock coordinates the foundation’s fundraiser, which runs from October until the end of December. Brock has been the president for the last eight fundraisers, however she has been actively involved in all 29 fundraisers held since the formation of the foundation.

“That fundraiser takes a lot of volunteer time, and now with the government you have quite a few non-profit forms and reports that you have to fill out,” said Brock.

In addition to the forms and reports, Brock writes two newsletters for the foundation and prepares quarterly reports on finances for the board of trustees.

“I have a board of trustees, we meet once a year, and they make a decision on what the grant for the … foster grandparent program will be,” said Brock.

As a member of the program’s Policy Advisory Council, Brock can see first hand the effects of the program on children and the volunteer Foster Grandparents.

“The kids listen to them. They love their grandmas, and these families? Some of the grandparents live away or they don’t have the presence of their grandparent in the community. It’s just beautiful to see it,” said Brock.

While the Upper Peninsula Foster Grandparent Foundation may be the most time-consuming of Brock’s volunteer projects, it isn’t the only way she volunteers to help children and seniors in the community.

Brock is a member of the Family, Community, and Education Study Group for Delta County. As a member of the study group, Brock has had an opportunity to be involved with coordinating an essay contest for children.

“I assist with the ‘Character Counts,’ which is an essay/poster contest, we run it in the fourth grade here in Delta County,” said Brock noting that not all fourth-grade classes participate in the contest but Delta County students have done well in the competition, which has local, state and national levels.

Brock also serves as a member of the Rapid River Housing Commission and is on the board of Rapid River’s Riverside Manor; is an active volunteer for her church, the United Evangelical Covenant Church of Gladstone, and its service projects; writes grants for the Rapid River area through the Community Foundation; and actively helps her husband, Pete Brock, with his volunteer projects.

“Wherever a husband and wife are volunteering, you help each other. We do it together,” said Brock. “He hauls for me. He counts the money at the fundraiser for me. I do whatever I can and gather things for his raffles or whatever, too.”