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Grandmas, grandpas welcome kids at G.G.’s House

Children enjoy a craft project at G.G.’s House, a ministry of Ocklawaha (Fla.) United Methodist Church that provides a safe and nurturing environment for at-risk kids under the guidance of mostly senior volunteers. UMNS photos by John Gordon.

By John Gordon*
Aug. 27, 2008 | OCKLAWAHA, Fla. (UMNS)

For children who cannot enjoy the smell of freshly baked cookies at their own grandparents' home, Pat Frost and a band of silver-haired volunteers offer the next best thing.

G.G.'s House is a place where children from underserved areas can learn to bake, play games and, most importantly, find comfort and attention. Its initials stand for "Grandma's and Grandpa's."

"This is a very depressed area, so a lot of the children that we deal with come from broken homes," says Frost, director of the youth community center in the small, rural town of Ocklawaha.

Director Pat Frost holds
3-year-old Jaden Porter.

"They’re not only starved for the necessities of life, but they’re starved for love and attention."

Inspired by a sermon at her church, Ocklawaha United Methodist, Frost set out to create a special place where at-risk children can feel special. Frost and other volunteers renovated a rundown house owned by the church and opened the doors to neighborhood kids last October.

Frost, 60, who has eight grandchildren of her own, says the senior mentors debated what they could do to help children in their community.

"I don’t have a lot of energy for little ones anymore," she says. "But it is my responsibility, it’s all our responsibility. So, I thought, I can’t keep focusing on what we can’t do; it’s what we can do."

Another church member, Nora Mace, 70, joined Frost in the ministry. "It’s a house built with love. That’s how we look at it," Mace says.

Long on ideas but short on funding, the two grandmothers rounded up donations of labor, materials and furniture. Then, they recruited friends to share talents such as crocheting, cooking or music.

"I learned that kids like slower games, they like the board games, they like to do puzzles," Frost says. "They want to do those one-to-one things. They just have not ever been exposed to them."

“It’s a house built with love. That’s how we look at it.”
–Nora Mace, 70
One G.G.'s program is the "inner beauty salon," where girls can have a facial at the same time they are learning that beauty is more than skin deep.

"I think it’s really good that they learn about their beauty on the outside, but they also learn about their beauty on the inside," says Kathleen Hoskins, a volunteer who used to work in a beauty salon. "I think they go away feeling really refreshed inside and outside."

Mace enjoys teaching crafts to the children. She says baking cookies or making a cake from scratch is often a first-time experience for G.G.'s kids. "They can decorate a cake. You can just see the joy on their faces that they were able to accomplish this," she says.

Since its fall 2007 opening, more than 1,000 children and family members have visited the center, according to estimates from its organizers. Frost says most of the kids who visit don't want to leave.

"I wish we lived here," said Felicia Spratt, 8. "I like it here and it's fun."

Eight-year-old Gary Wonders
shows off his art project.

"They're nice," says 9-year-old Justin Rainey. "They give stuff to us sometimes."

Janet Rioch is a single parent who brought her daughter to G.G.'s House. "They do a wonderful job with the children," she says.

Another parent, Flavio Perez, agrees. "There’s a lot of misery in the world right now, a lot of things are going on," he says. "For kids to come together is a good thing."

Senior volunteers enjoy the ministry as much as their "adopted" grandchildren.

"It gives me a reason to get up in the morning," Frost says. "It makes me feel like I’m doing something—you know, gives my life purpose.

"I will be doing this until the Lord takes me on to something else. We’re not retired until we’re in heaven."

On the Web: http://ggshouse.org

*Gordon is a freelance producer based in Marshall, Texas.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.  

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