PEORIA - A central Illinois program is in danger of massive cuts.
It means dozens of area kids won't get the attention they need.
The Foster Grandparent Program through Peoria’s Citizen Committee for Economic Opportunity, or PCCEO, is scheduled to get federal cuts.
The 2015 Obama Administration budget proposes the program be folded into AmeriCorps.
That means area senior citizens volunteering full time through the week would get their serving time cut in half.
Seniors get a stipend of $2.65 an hour to help pay for medication and groceries. They work with students throughout Peoria’s District 150, giving resources the district can't afford otherwise, and giving kids one-on-one time program directors say they can't afford to lose.
“Those volunteers give our children one more person to be accountable to, it gives our volunteers something to get up every day, to get out of the house and volunteer and give back. I can't see what they would do outside of our program,” says Stephanie Green, Foster Grandparent Director.
You'll find the 55 Foster Grandparents across the community.
We caught up with grandparents reading to kids and tutoring in the halls of Thomas Jefferson School in Peoria, Thursday, but they're also at the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Head Start, and beyond, helping kids reach their goals.
A Little Time
We found one grandma in particular, giving most of her life to her kids.
She helps the students in the special education program at District 150's Thomas Jefferson School.
And she's painting the perfect picture of just how much a little time, can do.
A classroom is Airalona Jones' happy place.
To the kids and teachers, Jones, is Grandma AJ.
She's a foster grandparent.
Grandma AJ helps in this special needs class room at District 150 every day, all day.
She's done it, for nine years.
Giving that one-on-one attention, only a grandma can.
“These kids need someone to just come in sometimes, if you don't do nothing but take and 'em and rock 'em,” explains Jones.
Jones volunteers in special education teacher Julie Moll’s room, “She’s always here early, she stays until the kids leave. She brings joy and a little wisdom, just a part of a big family here," Moll says of Jones.
But this family is in jeopardy.
If the Foster Grandparent program is cut, Grandma AJ's 40 plus hours a week here would go along with it.
“I get up in the morning and have something to look forward to. I'm coming to be with my kids. And it would be really sad. If this program, if they cut I, they are talking about the kids falling through the cracks if they cut the program. It would be really bad. These kids need that attention," says Jones.
“Although my children may not communicate, they know all of the adults in here. They light up when they see Grandma AJ. It will certainly be a loss for my class and the school district,” adds Moll.
But these people don't want to accept that fate.
And just like any other grandma, Airalona Jones will fight for her family.
“We can do a lot, this is a great program. I want it to keep going,” adds Jones.
The Foster Grandparent program isn't the only one on the chopping block.
Woodford, Marshall, and Livingston counties' retired senior volunteer program, or RSVP, is slated to lose 66% of its funding thought the 2015 budget.
The program places more than 470 retired volunteers, throughout the counties.
They help in places like the Eureka Area Food Pantry, providing more than $2 million worth of community service to organizations they serve, but the program director says the cuts will bring that all to an end.
“It’ll be a huge blow to the community,” says Amber Harmon, RSVP Director. “The social service agencies with the economy, they've had to cut, cut, cut and the volunteers are doing more and more for them."
"It will impact the work they can do, the clients they can see, the amount of food they can distribute. The amount of hours they can mentor or tutor."
How You Can Help
The programs need your help.
Coordinators can't lobby for funding.
So they say they need you.
They're asking you to contact them and your Congressional leaders.
And tell them why the programs are important to you.
Stephanie Green, PCCEO Foster Grandparent Program Director 309-671-3950
Amber Harmon, RSVP Director 309-467-9059
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