Funded Partner Spotlight: Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay

Mar 29, 2024Blog,News
foster grandparent working with an elementary school student

Every month, 250 adopted Grandmas, Grandpas, Nanas and Pop-pops report to elementary school classrooms throughout the community.

Part of the Foster Grandparents Program operated by Foundation funded partner Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay, these dedicated 55+ volunteers aid teachers, mentor students, support schools, and, in the process, perhaps help themselves.

“I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that this child at the end of the school year is knowing how to read, how to write, doing arithmetic, and advancing,” volunteer Kathyn Stevens said.

Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay was founded in 1984 to help provide solutions to community challenges by engaging 55+ volunteers. At the end of last year, they received a $249,535 programmatic operations grant from the Foundation and Orlando Health Bayfront Hospital to expand their Foster Grandparent Program (FGP). FGP provides one-on-one classroom-based mentoring for economically disadvantaged elementary school students attending schools in South St. Petersburg.

Volunteers, who often come from the same neighborhoods as the students they serve, commit to spending 15 hours each week in a local elementary school classroom. They help students with classwork, assist with emotional growth and development, and serve as an additional reliable loving person in the children’s lives. In turn, serving the students helps provide volunteers with opportunities for connection and imbues many with a sense of purpose, driven by the knowledge that they make a positive impact in people’s lives every week. Some volunteers have been with the program for more than 20 years.

“They say it’s nothing less than keeping them alive—this purpose of showing up for those kids makes a difference in their lives, too,” said Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay CEO Robin Ingles.

Ingles said that, typically, more than 90% of students in participating classrooms show gains in literacy and social emotional development year-over-year. Teachers have shared success stories highlighting growth in reading, improvements in students’ abilities to manage and articulate emotions, and more.

“It provides stability in students’ lives having somebody who has no agenda for their well-being other than their well-being,” Ingles said. “Our grandparents provide a lot of encouraging. They’re able to say, ‘no, you’re not going to quit, you’re going to do this, you can do this, I expect you to do this. They raise expectations. And hearing that positive supportive message over and over again every day from someone who doesn’t have a reason to that other than they really care about you makes a difference.”

That the foster grandparents often come from the neighborhoods surrounding the schools makes they culturally relevant in their students’ lives. Volunteers might be someone they see around their neighborhood, someone their parents know, someone they see in the supermarket.

Seniors in Service of Tampa Bay provides monthly trainings to support FGP volunteers, sometimes in conjunction with the school district. They also offer a small stipend and mileage reimbursement for lower income volunteers to ensure that their participation and work with the program does not hurt them financially.

“The art of what we do is identifying seniors who have a heart for kids, and who want to help in a big way,” Ingles said.

The group offers numerous other pathways to volunteer for 55+ community members, working with more than 1,500 volunteers in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties. To learn more, visit

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