Everyday Hero: Bernice Ward

Updated: Oct. 30, 2018 at 2:03 PM CDT
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FISK, MO (KFVS) - Whether you have grand kids or a grandma – you know that bond is special. This month’s everyday hero has thousands of grand kids, is helping school children strive for more in life.

Walking the halls of Twin Rivers-Fisk Elementary, Bernice Ward has a hug for anyone who wants one.

Ward is the school’s foster grandmother. She has a desk in the school library, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. five days a week she is there to listen, mentor, tutor, or just chat.

“As a foster grandmother I try to help each child reach their potential,” said Ward. “However high they can go in reading and math -- or anything – I want to help them reach that goal.”

Ward is among a group of folks over age 55 who serve in the Senior Corps’ Foster Grandparents Program.

“The goal of the program is to help disadvantaged youth succeed in education – so that’s what the grandparents focus on,” said program director Domonique Purnell.

Of the 50 or so volunteer grandparents in Scott, Mississippi and Butler counties – Ward has been helping kids reach their potential the longest. She’s now on her twenty-third year as the school grandmother. And she’s had a lot of success.

“There’s one student in particular that never liked to read and he’s been reading with grandma and has chosen to read more because of her,” said school librarian Paula Hefner.

It’s not always easy. Ward says some of the stories kids tell her would break your heart.

“One little girl said she wanted to run away from home,” said Ward. “I said ‘honey – why would you want to do that?’ and she said, ‘nobody loves me.’ And I said, ‘I love you.”

That is part of the program too.

“Hugging on the kids – listening to them when they’re sad, letting them know you have an ear for them – that stuff helps,” Purnell said. “One of the biggest things that we’ve been talking about in training is bullying and depression -- and trying to avoid suicide… Because sometimes they don’t think anyone even notices them and our grandparents do. They make a point to say – hey I know you are here, and I love you and you will be missed.”

“It’s very important because there’s so many children that need help,” said Ward. “There are so many children who don’t have help.”

So -- Bernice is there to lend an ear, share a meal, share a story, and– give lots of hugs. While all that helps the kids – she says the experience has given her so much joy in return.

“Doing this is something I can say I get more from it than anybody can possibly believe,” Ward said. “Kids have always been dear to my heart and when you get to be grandma to this many kids it’s such a pleasure.”

Bernice says she plans to continue to be a foster grandmother as long as she’s able.

If you’d like to become a foster grandparent, contact the SEMO Foster Grandparent Program Office in Sikeston at (573) 471-8676.

You must be over age 55 years old and pass a background check.

If you know someone who should be recognized as an Everyday Hero, click here to make your nomination.

We’ll profile an Everyday Hero each month on Heartland News.

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