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Foster Grandparent volunteers honored and recognized for years of service

  • Foster Grandparents volunteers and staff gather for a group photo during the program's appreciation day, Tuesday in Charles City. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Charles City Foster Grandparents program Director Sarah Merrifield starts off the recognition part of the program's appreciation day events Tuesday at St. John Lutheran Church. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Jean Boley, Charles City Foster Grandparents program assistant, takes a photo of Charles City Mayor Dean Andrews. Charles City sponsors the Foster Grandparents program.

  • Evelyn Schmidt, center, along with representatives of St. John Christian Preschool, where she serves, is recognized as being the current longest-serving Foster Grandparent at 29 years. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Recipients of five-year service pins at the Charles City Foster Grandparents Appreciation Day are, from left, Rose Leichtman, Martha Hoevet and Debra Tonn. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Recipients of 10-year service pins at the Charles City Foster Grandparents Appreciation Day Tuesday are, from left, Alice Embretson, Betty High and Barb Brown. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Recipient of a 15-year service pin at the Charles City Foster Grandparents Appreciation Day Tuesday is Pat Sinnwell. Foster Grandparents staff members Jean Boley and Colleen Ortmeyer were also recognized for 15 years of service. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Toni Pieper, accompanied by first grade teacher Jeremy Wilson, representing Washington Elementary School where she serves, is recognized as the Grandparent of the Year at the Charles City Foster Grandparent Appreciation Day Tuesday. Announcing the award was Charles City City Administrator Steve Diers, left. Press photo by Bob Steenson

Bob Steenson,

There’s a new location for the event and a new director at the helm, but the same group of dedicated volunteers and staff got together Tuesday for the annual Charles City Foster Grandparents Appreciation Day.

Held this year at St. John Lutheran Church, the day’s events included gifts, door prizes, lunch, entertainment and awards for years of service and special recognitions — as well as a candy and cookie bar.

Sarah Merrifield, who took over as director of the program this year, said, “No one can beat a Foster Grandparent volunteer. You guys are absolutely the best of the best, and I thank you for everything you have done.”

She said the Foster Grandparents “go above and beyond the call of duty to not only help the teachers and the staffs at the sites, but to make these children and teachers feel special and empowered.”

Fifty-six Foster Grandparents, along with long-time staff members Jean Boley, field coordinator, and Colleen Ortmeyer, program assistant, received certificates for their years of service. People who had volunteered for one year, five years, 10 years or 15 years also received a pin.

The Foster Grandparent Program is sponsored by the city of Charles City, and Mayor Dean Andrews received a certificate of appreciation.

Charles City City Administrator Steve Diers was master of ceremonies for the awards portion of the event, and started out by announcing Toni Pieper as the Grandparent of the Year.

“She works at Washington Elementary, has been a Foster Grandma since 2009, and she can always be counted on to lend a hand and have a positive smile and attitude,” Diers said.

Charles City Foster Grandparents is 47 years old — the oldest and the largest Foster Grandparents program in the state.

Foster Grandparents volunteer time in area schools, preschools and day care centers, offering help with school work and reading, support and role modeling to kids and students in 20 locations.

Foster Grandparents serve at Lincoln Elementary, Washington Elementary, Charles City high school and middle school, Central Preschool, St. John Christian Preschool, Immaculate Conception Elementary and The Learning Center, all in Charles City; RRMR Schools; Newman Catholic Elementary, Newman Childcare, West Town Charlie Brown and Washington Charlie Brown in Mason City; Lake Town Charlie Brown and Clear Creek Elementary in Clear Lake; Osage Lincoln Elementary and Osage Community Childcare; New Hampton Community School, St. Joseph Elementary and Great Plays Childcare in NewHampton.

Length-of-service recognition went to:

• Less than a year – Mary Church, Debra Hufft, Valerie Jenkins, Marlys Kiel, Irma Leier, Shirley Peterson.

• 1-year pin – Carol Pollard, Donna Fiestner, Debroah Abplanalp, Jayne Hansen, Jody Jacobson.

• 2 years – Valerie Shaw, Sharon Bormann.

• 3 years – Diane Winter, Janet Niess, Kathleen Ranc, Susan Marvin, Cynthia Kinney.

• 4 years – Linda Betels, Patty Martin, Aletha Berding Powell, Joe Leider, Haila Reinhardt, Charlote Reams, Ladonna Norris.

• 5-year pin – Martha Hoevet, Rose Leichtman, Debra Tonn.

• 6 years – Colleen Hubesch, Wanda Ward, Joan Nielsen, Vicky Inman.

• 7 years – Pat Leichtman, Darlene Toyne, Betty Hanson.

• 8 years – Joan Adams, Janice Duren, Jackie Ferch.

• 9 years – Wilma Lensing, Joann Murphy, Toni Pieper.

• 10-year pin – Barb Brown, Alice Embretson, Betty High.

• 11 years – Mavis Beenen.

• 12 years – Lavonne Kacer.

• 13 years – Sheral Tumilson.

• 14 years – Shirley Petrack, Madeline Knowlton.

• 15-year pin – Pat Sinnwell, Jean Boley, Colleen Ortmayer.

• 16 years – Donna Hulion, Mary Kellogg.

• 17 years – Bernice Voelker.

• 18 years – Sharon Ott.

• 19 years – Mary Jones.

• 29 years – Evelyn Schmidt.