Alumni in the Field

Eileen Bostwick / BA in Sociology, 1971

By Katie Hittmeier, Sociology Undergraduate, Spring 2003

My sociology and speech communication degree from Humboldt has been instrumental in my career successes. I graduated in June 1971. I work for a Community Action Agency, North Coast Opportunities, Inc. in Ukiah, California. My position is Director of the Foster Grandparent Program in Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Lake and Northern Sonoma Counties and Senior Companion Program in Mendocino County. These are volunteer programs for low-income seniors who commit to serve four hours a day, five days a week, for a total of 1, 044 hours a year.

Foster Grandparents serve children with special needs in schools, residential group homes, pre-schools, Head Start Programs and juvenile hall. These children may be learning disabled, mentally or physically challenged, abused and/or neglected, or youth in juvenile detention. How do these seniors serve children? In many diverse ways, probably as many ways as there are matches. Foster Grandparents are tutors in public schools, assisting children with literacy and mathematics skills. They help to develop confidence in young children. They serve troubled teens at juvenile hall. They mentor children at residential group homes for severely abused and neglected children with multiple levels of dysfunction and disability. They help develop resiliency and help children bounce back from adversity in their lives. Research demonstrates that a meaningful relationship with one adult can make the difference in the life of a child. Often the relationship that counts for many children is the relationship with their Foster Grandparent. This cost-effective, intergenerational program benefits communities.

Senior Companions serve frail elders to help them maintain their independence at home versus being placed in institutional care. The clients are transported to medical appointments, to run errands and on recreational outings. Senior Companions also go grocery shopping with or for their clients; they make light meals; they perform other light household chores. Then they read to, play card or other games with, or watch sports on TV. They communicate about life and interests.

The volunteers receive a tax-free stipend of $2.65 an hour. This is an enabler because most of our volunteers live on less than 125% of poverty. We also provide a travel reimbursement, annual physical, supplemental insurance, recognition and monthly in-service training.

As far as volunteer work goes, I think that is part of the reason I was hired for my current position. I have volunteered from a young age. I have served with the March of Dimes, United Way, American Cancer Society and more agencies. I was President for PTA at St. Bernard's Elementary School, and co-chaired their annual carnival at Redwood Acres for three years. I also co-chaired the Tour of the Unknown Coast 100 mile bicycle ride and 50 mile challenge for four years when it was held under the auspices of St. Bernard’s Elementary School. I have organized the annual Woodside Preschool Silent Auction for two years. I served on the Board of the Mendocino Youth Project for 5 years and on the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Board for five years. I served on the Camp Fire, Inc. Board for three years and was trained to present new program materials to volunteer leaders in Humboldt County. I also served on the Trinity School for Children Advisory Board for five years. In addition I help with numerous episodic events in our community.