First Posted: 3/17/2014
When members of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church became aware area grandparents raising grandchildren had a need for support, they were quick to want to help. That help has come in the form of a support group meeting every second Wednesday night to allow its members to share their knowledge, experience, strength and hope with each other.
As grandparents approach their “golden years,” many envision having some extra time for themselves. Perhaps thoughts of leisure, travel and extra sleep fill their anticipated agenda for retirement. Often, however, family problems, including drug addiction or illness, have made it necessary for them to step in and parent their grandchildren.
According to the AARP, over 81,000 children are living with their grandparents in Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, there is no “road map” for those grandparents. Believing that there situation is unique or that “no one else will understand,” they travel a lonely path. Recently, however, support groups have been set in place to support and encourage those raising grandchildren. Equipped with information regarding legal, medical and educational issues and in touch with others in similar situations, attendees often obtain not only the tools to do the job, but also to feel more comfortable and confident while doing it.
Other issues such as cell phone use and internet safety might be something about which grandparents raising grandchildren have limited experience. The support group will offer the opportunity to ask questions and get advice on such issues.
Group facilitator Frank Mariano emphasizes most grandparents raising grandchildren are not in crisis mode and are certainly “up to” the task of dealing with challenges the situation presents. Nonetheless, they often benefit from the socialization and information provided by a support group.
Childcare provided during the meetings also offers opportunity for the children themselves to have fun while their grandparents enjoy the company of other adults.
The group is also open to older adults such as aunts and uncles raising nieces and nephews.
The group welcomes all grandparents, regardless of religious belief or geography. The group’s vision is to interface with other group’s throughout the area to consistent availability of support throughout the month.
“Our vision for the group is both fellowship and service,” said Annie Bisher, chairman of the church’s evangelical team. “We believe the greatest resource for attendees in the long term will be each other.”
The group was the brainchild of Joe Hardisky. Hardisky attended a community prayer breakfast and became aware that the problem of grandparents raising grandchildren was not being addressed in the Back Mountain area. He was quick to suggest the church step in.
The support reflects the church’s commitment to service within the community. Although, often the Back Mountain area is perceived as an area of affluence, the reality is there is a need for supportive services there.
St. Paul’s seeks to fill those needs by offering various forms of assistance to those in need. In addition to the grandparents support group, the church also operates a food pantry and Boy Scout program and is the site of a Head Start and Early Intervention program.
The church, sitting on a hill on Yallick Road, Dallas is truly a beacon of hope to those it serves and the entire community. Although many believe that Dallas has “no needs,” the experiences of the leadership at the church have proved otherwise.
As a sponsor of various supportive services, church staff have become familiar with families that worry about food and finances. Grandparents parenting their grandchildren often see this need intensified. Fixed or limited incomes, failing health, uncertain futures sometimes burden these grandparents.
The support group’s meeting drew members of three area families and was deemed a success by Mariano. Staff at the church anticipate the group will grow as more people find out about it through public relations and and word of mouth.
The group is one of four in Luzerne County working together to address the unique needs of grandparents raising grandchildren.