Donation from Orangeville Rotary Club will help grow the GrandPals program

September 29, 2016   ·   0 Comments

The GrandPals program in Orangeville is ready to kick off its sixth year.

GrandPals, started by local elementary school teacher Marc Mailhot, is a character development initiative that connects elementary school students with local senior citizens to share their life stories, read books, write stories and create relationships.

This year, the Rotary Club of Orangeville donated $6,000 to help the program expand and buy supplies like Chromebook computers.

“Rotary is very supportive of youth programs, we’re always interested in working and helping with local youth,” said Fred Murphy, President of Orangeville’s Rotary Club. “All the money came from Rotary through fundraising events like Ribfest.”

Once a week from October to June, students from Montgomery Village Public School visit residents of Chartwell Mongomery Village Retirement Residence.

“For the first while, the students share their stories [with the seniors],” said Mr. Mailhot. “The second part is learning about the seniors’ lives and then finally, the students write a story about the seniors life.”

Last year, a collection of theses stories were bound together and because of their historical relevance, the Orangeville Public Library officially archived the book, Once Upon a Wednesday. Another element of GrandPals is including the Kindergarten classes by seniors reading stories via webcam and broadcasting them into the young classrooms.

“The biggest change this year is that we’ve really integrated the curriculum into this project,” said Mr. Mailhot, who moved the program from Avalon Retirement Lodge to Chartwell Montgomery three years ago. “I have a Grandpal of my own; [Robert MacIntyre]’s feedback has really, really helped shape this program.”

Mr. MacIntyre, a former University of Toronto professor, is one of dozens of seniors participating in the GrandPals program who have helped expand and grow the community project. This year, 12 teachers from multiple schools in Orangeville are participating and now every seniors home in town has partnered and become GrandPals members.

The library is also starting its own GrandPals sector for seniors who may want to get involved and connect with youth but aren’t living at a seniors centre.

“My favourite part is seeing the outcome, seeing the relationships build and the work the kids do because they want to do so well for their GrandPals,” said Lynda Brown, a teacher at Montgomery Village Public School. “Some of the stories that you hear are just incredible [and] not just from Orangeville, they’re from all over the world — some of the seniors were in the second World War.”

The hopes are to create another book of stories with this year’s program and continue to build the relationships between the senior community and student community.

“It’s been so amazing so far,” said Mr. Mailhot, founder of GrandPals. “Seeing the connections everyone makes and the relationships that form has been incredible.”

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