SOUTH SALT LAKE — Each morning that Janice Jenkins walks into her classroom, she braces herself as 17 preschoolers swarm her with hugs.
Jenkins, 70, is a Senior Corps volunteer and participant in the Foster Grandparents program. She donates her time and energy to the Head Start preschool at 2825 S. 200 East, assisting the classroom's teacher and imparting wisdom to the young students.
"I love working with children," she said. "I did not know that I could after I raised my own. The literacy that we teach to them makes it such a thrill."
On Monday, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams encouraged senior citizens in the community to join the county's Senior Corps, where they can participate in programs such as Foster Grandparents, Meals on Wheels and even ride-sharing.
McAdams said the Foster Grandparents program is especially helpful in supporting underserved communities.
"If we want to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty, one of the things we know is that we have got to intervene early," he said.
Last year, Foster Grandparents helped tutor 340 at-risk children in reading, according to the Senior Corps.
"Foster Grandparents are just one part of the Senior Corps program that sends volunteers out in the community to be of service to our neighbors," McAdams said.
Senior Corps reports that it also delivered about 200 meals per day to senior citizens, gave emergency food support to 17,425 individuals, and provided transportation and assistance to nearly 27,000 veterans.
"Although we have a dedicated volunteer force, there is still more that is needed," McAdams said.
Erin Trenbeath-Murray, CEO of Utah Community Action, joined the county mayor in the call for volunteers.
Trenbeath-Murray said volunteers like Jenkins have provided more than 1,300 hours of service over the past year.
"This equates to an in-kind value of $53,203," she said.
Head Start volunteers provide much of the same service as classroom aids.
"I would like to thank our Foster Grandparents for their commitment as we work to build a brighter future for low-income children and families," Trenbeath-Murray said.
The Salt Lake County Senior Corps program has about 300 senior volunteers. The Foster Grandparents program has about 70 senior citizens who assist in classrooms. The Senior Corps hopes to see about 20 more volunteers for Foster Grandparents.
"I could not think of a better position for an elderly person," Jenkins said.