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Volunteers ‘Sparkle' at PDC
Foster grandparents, Senior companions honored
Making lives sparkle — that is exactly what Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions — the Porterville Developmental Center’s volunteers — do for their clients.
But on Friday, it was the volunteers time to sparkle when PDC honored 54 senior companions and 29 foster grandparents with a special recognition luncheon at Hummingbird Hollow.
Together, the foster grandparents who help with clients younger than 21 years of age and senior companions and those who help with clients who are age 21 and older at PDC and 13 off-site locations, have contributed more than 100,000 hours to PDC clients.
Rev. Richard Jordan talked about the word “Sparkle” and compared it with the elation, energy, enthusiasm and gaity the volunteers provide.
“You guys do so much for us, we can’t say ‘thank you’ enough,” said Jordan before talking about the beauty of heavenly lights that sparkle in a clear night sky. “You, our volunteers are those heavenly bodies that sparkle and bring enjoyment to all you are around.”
Many volunteers, however, said the reason they sparkle is because the children, or adults, they care for, ignited the spark.
“It’s so fantastic and very rewarding,” said Rita Mendoza, the center’s newest foster grandparent, assigned to Olive Street School. “The kids are very loving. It’s very rewarding.”
Mendoza said she became a volunteer at the recommendation of her daughter who works at PDC.
“I was at home, not doing anything. Now I get up every day and go help. I love it. It is wonderful,” she said. “I recommend it to any grandparent. These kids need you.”
Theresa Perger agreed. A 4-year volunteer at Santa Fe Elementary, Perger said she treasures the hugs and smiles and children willingly offer.
“Once you start, you get involved. It’s very rewarding,” Perger said.
Gloria Figueroa, a foster grandparent for five years at Santa Fe, said she loves her role and feels happy and content when she helps a 7-year-old child.
“I’m very happy too,” added Agustina Lebron, a six-year foster grandparent, helping kindergarten students at Washington Elementary in Lindsay. “They all love me. I feel warmth whenever they are around.”
It was a sentiment heard again and again.
Among the guests was Porterville City Council Member Pete McCracken, who expressed his appreciation of the program and of the volunteers.
He was not the only one praising the volunteers. Lucia Prandini, clinical director, also praised them.
“You contribute so much to Porterville Developmental Center and to the community,” she said. “I’ve seen many of you walking and spending quality time with our clients. When they see you, you can tell how excited they get. Thank you for all you do. Senior volunteers make life sparkle, it’s very true. You bring sparkle to the many lives you touch.”
During the past year, Prandini said, the volunteers contributed 73,000 senior companion hours and 33,500 foster grandparent hours — not counting the numerous hours donated during additional special events and activities after hours.
Special recognition was offered to a few volunteers, including:
° Jose Sandoval, for serving the most overall foster grandparent hours — 16,200.
° Kioko Goya, 81, oldest actively-serving foster grandparent.
° Connie Lopez, for serving the most overall senior companion hours — 25,031.
° Mario Fernandez, 89, oldest actively-serving senior companion.
° Jimmy Washington, excellent attendance, missing only four hours of work since January.
° Juan Pena, excellent attendance, missing only one day, six hours, of work since January.
In addition, 12 other volunteers were recognized for their outstanding achievement and for going above and beyond — Amancio Arcos, Adam Baldwin, Nellie England, Jorge Gonzalez, Rufino Maduena, Jose Sandoval, Carol Wall, Ramona Roman, Socorro Munoz, Kiyoko Goya, Frances Ramos and Ramona Torrones.
Stephanie Thompson, Acting Program Director, Central Program Service, said each volunteer made a big difference in the life of one person.
“I hope you know and understand the great treasure you are to the community, PDC, the teachers, the staff and especially the students,” she said and talked about the laughter and smiles of clients when they spend time with the volunteers. “All of you have chosen in your golden years to do something of ultimate value.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.