New Opportunities improves the quality of life for individuals and families by providing access to services that sustain and/or increase their standard of living, foster self-sufficiency and maximize self-empowerment. Through its Foster Grandparent Program, the organization supports the needs of children in the City of Waterbury and Borough of Naugatuck where virtually all volunteers reside and where the greatest need exists for their services.
232 North Elm Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
Phone: (203) 575-4245
Fax: (203) 755-8254
Check out New Opportunities listings on VolunteerMatch.
By Carol M. Karimi
Meg McCreedy is a nonprofit professional extraordinaire. As the director of foster grandparents for a program at New Opportunities her main goal is to connect lower income older adults with children of all ages who need a little guidance, wisdom, friendship and love.
McCreedy sees important connections within society that many of us pursuing our hectic lifestyles overlook – invaluable connections like the one between a grandchild and a grandparent.
"There is a tenderness and gentleness that comes from the unconditional understanding between young people and seniors," said McCreedy. "The child sees a person who looks all-wise and knowledgeable and thinks, 'I hope I get there someday.' It's like a magic between them."
In addition to her work at New Opportunities, McCreedy is also a tireless champion for other nonprofits in her community. In her spare time she runs the local food bank. And she's also pursuing a personal goal in studying for a Master's degree in social services – she will be the first person in her family with one.
A former investment advisor, McCreedy has lots of advice on how to transition from the private sector to the nonprofit side.
For starters, she says, try volunteering to get an inside look at how different nonprofits approach their mission. And pay attention to your instincts. "Find something that feels good to you," she said.
At New Opportunities, McCreedy works with 60 seniors who act as teachers and one-on-one mentors. The children in the program often have learning delays or are hospitalized, or else they’re in Head Start. Many have parents who are working, incarcerated or simply absent. Foster Grandparents also get assigned to preschools, summer youth programs, Montessori schools or parochial schools, and the like. Volunteers receive a small tax-free stipend.
If there's a constant, she said, it's that children attach themselves to older adults very quickly no matter the setting – and so do their teachers. McCreedy had one teacher tell her, "There’s no way you're taking Grandma from me!"
Of course, not only children and teachers benefit from the arrangement. For seniors, being a foster grandparent means always having something to do and days filled with new purpose and meaning. McCreedy has seen the benefits of this first hand. Last year, she was contacted by a doctor who had read it might be possible to slow a patient's dementia and depression through interactions with children.
"Here we are six months later and she is a new person," said McCreedy. "She's full of life, her memory is awesome, her depression lifted. Best of all, she gets to be called 'Grandma' – something she never expected to hear."
For McCreedy, the coming wave of Boomer retirees, nearly 76 million in all, can't come soon enough. Already she says she's getting lots of inquires from adults in their 50s. They're old enough to identify as grandparents, but not yet eligible for the program.
In McCreedy's mind, one thing is very clear: seniors play an invaluable role in our society.
"We are too quick to dismiss people over 60 as not being productive. But they are a wellspring of knowledge that you can't get from books," she said. "The people who have experienced life are your best teachers. You can't put a value on that."
What about your volunteer program? There are lots of older adults looking to make a difference, and with their wealth of life knowledge, the dividends are endless. Update your listings today at VolunteerMatch.