AmeriCorps Seniors Volunteer Vicki Pentecost

When Granny Arrives, “Something Changes”

yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7 - AmeriCorps Seniors Volunteer Vicki Pentecost“Don’t get me wrong,” Vicki Pentecost says with a smile. “My students love their teachers. But when a granny comes into the room, their eyes light up. They’re excited. Something changes.”

Danielle Bucy wouldn’t dispute it. As one of two coordinators for the Foster Grandparent program to which Vicki belongs, she’s seen time and time again how the presence of a surrogate grandparent in the classroom makes a lasting impact on kids. “They’re just amazing people,” she says.

Vicki joined the program some 14 years ago, then stepped away to help another nonprofit enterprise for a few years. She’s returned, now a seasoned veteran, though some of her colleagues have been in place for nearly a quarter-century.

A Muskegon resident and married 50 years with four adult children, Vicki worked full-time at Brunswick Corp. for many years while also serving as an ordained minister in her church.

“I just love kids,” she says. “I was used to relating to teenagers because of the ministry I’m in. But a girlfriend encouraged me to try mentoring youngsters, and though it was challenging at first, I got the hang of it.”

Vicki’s approach is simple: “It’s all about loving on them where they’re at and encouraging them. They can tell when you really love them or care about them.”

It also involves listening, she says. “Sometimes at recess, they’ll come sit with you and talk to you and they have something on their heart they need to share. You pick up on clues, and sometimes determine they’re sad about something. Some of them come from a difficult place. You can tell.”

Vicki is sympathetic to mothers and couples bringing up kids at a young age, noting that “some of these parents haven’t even lived their whole young lives yet, and here they are having children. Sometimes, they haven’t even set goals for themselves yet.”

That realization motivates her to listen as well to parents in need. “My frustration is that I’m the type of person who likes to solve a problem, so with these kids starting their lives…they need more guidance on how to become a parent.”

According to Vicki, many of her students enjoy reading with the Foster Grandparents. Most teachers go the extra mile to provide books in the classroom, so it’s natural for Vicki to spend time alongside kids who need a little extra help.

She’s also not averse to quietly buying items for children in obvious need of extra clothing or school supplies – anything from hats and gloves to modestly priced toys. “I want every kid to feel as comfortable and important as the other kids,” Vicki says, “but without embarrassing them.

“For kids, the formative years are so important. They need a head start, and I’m grateful to be a part of that.”

Interested in becoming an AmeriCorps Seniors Volunteer? Fill out the form below or call us at 231-726-1200 and someone will contact you with more information: