AU community program helps grandparents who are raising their grandchildren

Wednesday, December 22nd 2021, 4:19 PM EST

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WFXG) - Augusta University has an outreach program designed to assist grandparents that are raising grandchildren in parent-absent homes in Richmond and Columbia Counties. 

The Healthy Grandparents Program began in 1999 through a grant from the College of Nursing at Augusta University. Program Coordinator Mike Patton says there's been an increase in recent years of grandparents taking care of their grandchildren, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s a lot of obstacles for these grandparents when they’re trying to provide for their grandchildren, whether it be their physical needs, their educational needs, their mental health needs," Patton says. "I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to come to work every day and work with a group of families like these grandparents whose devotion to their grandchildren is unmatched.”

Patton says his job is to just make things easier for grandparents. “They deal with a lot of hardships along the way,” he says. “Especially grandparents who don’t have legal custody – they run into issues with getting children enrolled in school, getting shot records, getting birth certificates for their children.” Patton says a lot of what they need is just information. “They do a wonderful job of taking care of the daily needs of their grandchildren,” he says. “They don’t need help doing that.”

Natasha and Steve Lewis have been involved with the Healthy Grandparents Program for more than six years. Natasha says it’s a great way to connect with other people. “I’ve enjoyed being with other grandparents and learning from some of the issues that they’re having and certain things that come up with us I can vent with them and ask Mike if he can help us,” Natasha says.

The Lewis’ eight-year-old granddaughter Madison lives with them and Natasha says she also enjoys being a part of the program. “She loves being with the kids when we go [to the monthly meetings],” Natasha says. “The nursing students will come and babysit the kids while the grandparents get together to talk about issues and stuff.”

Last week, the program held a drive-thru Christmas present event. There, one of the program's community supporters, Columbia County Merchants Association, donated $5,000 to continue helping support the program. 

To date, the Healthy Grandparents Program has served more than 550 families, 750 grandparents and more than 1,200 grandchildren across Richmond and Columbia Counties. If you are interested in getting involved in the program, you can reach out to Patton directly at 706-721-6227. You can learn more about it HERE

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