‘Like family to us:’ foster grandparents make a difference

NEW BEDFORD — A few children around a table in a PACE Head Start classroom brought out cards with “Sesame Street” characters and numbers on them to practice counting with Louise Ellis, 68.

“Okay grandma, are you going to teach us?” one of them asked Ellis as she talked to a Standard-Times reporter.

Ellis is one of 58 foster grandparents ranging in age from 55 to 89 at 26 sites in Greater New Bedford. The program runs on a national level through Senior Corps and has been offered by Coastline for over 35 years. It offers a tax free stipend for a minimum of 15 hours a week.

Ellis said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and 2017. This is on top of previous knee replacements.

“By me having this to come to, it made it much easier for me,” said Ellis, as she went through chemotherapy and radiation. “They helped a lot. They got me through it.”

August will mark eight years for her in the program. She visits PACE (People Acting in Community Endeavors) Head Start on Madison Street for seven hours a day, five days a week.

“I’m going to be doing this until I can’t do it anymore,” she said.

“She means a lot to me,” said Sandra Lopes, lead teacher in the classroom. “She’s been through a lot.” Lopes said Ellis comforts the kids when they’re sad or upset and assists those who need extra help with number and letter recognition.

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Josh Amaral

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