Bob Jamieson first started coming to the Southtowns Family YMCA to participate and volunteer in the SilverSneakers program. One morning, he was presented with an opportunity that would change his life in ways he could have never imagined. “I was exercising in a SilverSneakers class and a staff member knocked on the window and said that it was Grandparent’s Day, and a lot of kids didn’t have grandparents,” says Bob. “She asked me if I wanted to be an honorary grandpa for the day.” Bob spent the rest of the day with a four-year-old boy named Eddie. The pair played games, ate lunch together, and had a wonderful time. “It was great, we really hit it off,” he says. “The next morning, he brought his dad over to thank me.”
“Bob instantly recognized that he got something out his volunteer experience with little Eddie,” says Associate Executive Director Jessie Bari. “He was able to build that relationship, feel valued by the kids, and have fun. It’s sounds simple to be a grandparent for a day, but to a four-year-old, it’s a big deal.” From then on, Bob decided he wanted even more opportunities to volunteer at the Y.
Bob began reading to children in the Y’s Young Explorers Summer Camp program, and he now volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday at one of the YMCA’s before school child care sites. He and the children eat breakfast, play games, read, and spend time in the gym. “I enjoy working with the kids,” says Bob. “I like getting out of the house and helping out. The kids are always happy, and they’ve been good to me.”
If you spend one morning with Bob, it’s easy to see how much he values his volunteer experience. “He makes sure to learn every child’s name,” says Jessie. “It’s very important to him that he sees them as individuals.” “I’ve learned that just knowing their names goes a long way,” says Bob. “It’s a wonderful feeling when they trust you, they are genuine about it.” On the rare days that Bob can’t make it to the child care program, his absence is certainly felt. One morning, the children made a special card for him and surprised him with it when he returned.
The Southtowns Family YMCA front desk often gets calls from parents in appreciation of Bob, saying he’s a great role model for their children. “There were two boys who no longer needed child care and were leaving the before school program,” says Jessie. “Their mom came up to me and said her sons were really going to miss Bob, mentioning that she had seen such a positive change in them since they met him.” Bob’s impact doesn’t go unnoticed. He was named the Southtowns Family YMCA’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year. “That was really special for me,” he says. “My entire family was very proud and took great pride in that.”
Jessie says it’s been a rewarding experience for her to get to know Bob and to see the impact he’s had on the kids. “Bob takes four hours a week to volunteer his time, build relationships, and support the child care that we provide to our community,” she says. “Bob is accomplishing the Y’s mission in so many ways. He brings his positive energy to our programs which in turn supports the kids and families that we serve, but there is also a huge benefit to him as a volunteer, too, because he’s able to feel more engaged in this community.”
Bob looks forward to continuing to volunteer his time. “I do it because I love it, the Y is like my family,” he says. “I am enjoying the luxury of having more years as a grandpa.”