One Woman’s Lifelong Dedication to Nurturing Young Minds

Daily Point of Light # 7812 May 15, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Bernice Voelker. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

At over 90 years old, Bernice Voelker, affectionately known as Grandma Bernice, continues to make a profound impact on the lives of students at Charles City Lincoln Elementary School through the AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent Program. Her unwavering commitment for the past 22 years has not only helped shape the educational journey of over 500 students but has also earned her the esteemed title of 2022 Foster Grandparent of the Year.

Bernice herself has 14 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. “I just like helping children,” Bernice said. “I retired from work and didn’t have much to do. I had friends in the program and they got me into it.”

Every weekday from 8 AM to 12 PM, Grandma Bernice demonstrates the utmost kindness and guidance in the classroom. Her role extends beyond just assisting with academic tasks; she provides emotional support, encouragement and the nurturing care that only a grandmother can offer. Her daily activities include helping students enhance their reading and writing skills, catching up on other homework and preparing snacks, ensuring that each child receives the attention and support they need to succeed.

Grandma Bernice makes a profound impact on the lives of students through the AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent Program.

“The most rewarding parts are seeing how the kids learn and make progress,” Bernice shared. “I love working with the third graders especially. They’re easy to work with. I read with them. I help them with math and spelling.”

Over the years, Grandma Bernice has dedicated more than 9,000 hours to mentoring and supporting the students of Charles City. Her approach is gentle yet impactful, making her an integral part of the educational environment. Her presence in the classroom has not only boosted students’ academic abilities but has also given them the confidence to face both the good and bad days, knowing they have a steadfast supporter in their corner.

“I think it’s important for people to volunteer with kids – teaching them and also showing them how to get involved through volunteering,” Bernice reflected. “I think some of these kids don’t necessarily have support at home. They come and tell me things about their life and I can help support them.”

Bernice’s contributions extend beyond the classroom. She actively participates in parades and fundraising events to promote the Foster Grandparent Program and expand its reach across four counties. Her efforts ensure that the program continues to grow and impact more children in the community.

The recognition as Foster Grandparent of the Year in 2022 was a testament to her exceptional dedication and the deep impression she has left on the program and its participants. Teachers, students and community members alike treasure her, as she has changed the lives of hundreds of students, guiding them with a grandmother’s love and wisdom.

Bernice’s story is not just one of volunteerism; it’s a story of heart, commitment and the powerful impact of providing a nurturing figure for children during their formative years. As she continues to serve with no intention of slowing down, her legacy grows, woven into the lives of the countless children who have had the privilege of calling her Grandma.

“Just coming in in the morning and seeing the smiling faces giving me hugs, saying I’m glad you’re here,” Bernice said. “It’s very rewarding work.”

In Charles City and beyond, Bernice Voelker is more than just a volunteer; she is a pillar of the community, a cherished grandmother to all her students and an inspiring example of how compassion and dedication can truly make a difference. Her life’s work at Lincoln Elementary is a profound reminder of the impact one person can have on the lives of many.

Bernice encourages anyone, regardless of their age, to get involved in their communities. “You’re never too old to help people,” Bernice said. “I was in my 60’s when I started volunteering at the school.”

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Bernice? Find local volunteer opportunities.

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