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Lighting the Way

The Grandfathers Group receives award from The Points of Light Foundation.

The Grandfathers Group, a project of the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), will be honored August 6, as the Nation's Volunteer of the Day by The Points of Light Foundation.

The Daily Points of Light Award honors individuals and volunteer groups that have made a commitment to connect Americans through service to help meet critical needs in their communities. It focuses on the goals for children and youth set by the President's Summit for America's Future. Each weekday, one volunteer or volunteer effort in the country receives a Daily Point of Light Award. Since the awards originated, the Grandfathers Group is the second organization in Alexandria to receive this distinction.

"We are grateful that the Grandfathers Group has been singled out for this important recognition. It's truly a win-win situation for Alexandria, and the generous men who give of themselves, as well as the young boys who benefit from their care and guidance. It is also a fitting recognition of James and Lavern Chatman, who envisioned, created and endowed the Grandfathers Group," said Katherine Morrison, executive director of The Campagna Center.

The Grandfathers Group began in 1998 recruiting and training African American men (age 50+) to serve as volunteer grandfather mentors for African American boys, ages 6 - 12, whose fathers are not available to them for support and guidance. Since its inception, 21 grandfather mentors have volunteered more than 1,600 hours with their grandsons to provide a supportive framework of empowerment, encouragement and esteem-building activities focused on character education and life skills.

THOUGH THEY may come from many backgrounds, the men of the Grandfathers Group share the same purpose — to offer their life experiences, their knowledge, instincts and abilities to help rewrite the future for these young boys.

"I have volunteered with the program for the past three years," said grandfather mentor George Ferguson. "It has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever undertaken. Perhaps the most significant benefit for my 10-year-old mentee is that he knows that there is someone in his life who has the time and interest in listening to what he has to say.

"The principal benefit to me personally has been the satisfaction of seeing the excitement on his face when I pick him up to take him out and seeing the pride with which he introduces me as his mentor to his friends as we walk together in his neighborhood."

"This relationship has given my son inner confidence and security," said Georgia Mae Oates, whose son has been mentored for almost five years.

"As time passed, I could see my son begin to develop his natural male attributes in an environment where they could be shaped. My son had a man to emulate the little things that all together, year after year, serve to grow a young man into a self-respecting adult. I can attribute this to the interest the mentor and the Grandfathers Group have shown my son. The mentor and his family have become part of our family."

For more information about volunteering for the Grandfathers Group, contact Joan Dale, program coordinator at The Campagna Center, 703-549-1607, ext 128.