Seventy-year-old Janice Jenkins spends four days a week volunteering with kids at a Head Start center in South Salt Lake, where she helps read to and wrangle children.
“We work with them, get them to draw things and use their imagination,” Jenkins says. “I read them books. I like to read to them while they’re coloring.”
While Jenkins helps the children from low-income or impoverished families begin learning before entering kindergarten, she says they help her, too.
“I love the kids. They fulfill me,” she says, adding that the children “have kept me from getting older.”
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams says that kind of work goes a long way in preparing the kids for school and beyond.
“Giving (kids) adult role models who engage with them, read with them, play with them, where they learn how to interact with peers and adults is an important step if we want to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.”
Jenkins and other volunteers put in about $53,000 worth of volunteer work hours last year, but McAdams says the Head Start teachers could use more help.
“We’re calling for seniors who have time to come and give back,” McAdams says.
“This is a fun way to do it. To spend time with kids, interacting with them in the classroom. It makes a real difference for their entire life.”
Other volunteer opportunities include delivering Meals on Wheels, providing transportation and checking in on other seniors in the community.
More information is available at slco.org/aging.