Grandparent support group meets every last Tuesday
Published 3:35 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023
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By Angela Cutrer
The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren recently resumed its meetings a few months ago after dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once again, every last Tuesday of the month, the doors to the Elizabethton Senior Center open at 10 a.m. to welcome grandparents raising grandchildren to meetings to show attendees how much the community cares for them and their struggles.
“Here in Carter County, we have an increase in the number of grandparents, and even great-grandparents, raising their grandchildren,” said Maryann Owen, the adult services and outreach librarian with the Elizabethton-Carter County Public Library, which teams with the senior center in facilitating the meetings. “The number keeps increasing and this support group is to bring resources to these seniors.”
Brittany Shell, the center’s executive director, said one major barrier the support group is currently facing is how to get the grandparents to the center. She said she is working with the school systems to spread the word about the meetings. “We know there is a good number of grandparents or relatives raising children in this area and we want them to know that support is out there,” she said.
Shell added that many attendees might not know the meetings are back on. “We did lose most attendance from grandparents who had attended the meetings prior to the pandemic,” said Shell. “Currently we have three grandparents and four grandchildren attending. We are looking to spread the word that the group is back up and running.”
The center works with Carter County schools and Elizabethton city schools, whose representatives attend the meetings.
“So far we have had several presentations,” Shell said. “One provided by Carter County Drug Prevention (PEAK MENTORS) offers grandparents a great way to find mentors for their grandchildren. Mentors can assist with life skills, guidance, role modeling and support.
“We have also had a presentation by the SNAP coordinator with First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging, whose coordinator provided resources for food, legal aid, finances and utilities.”
The senior center is also working in partnership with the Elizabethton Library and local school systems to provide computer training to assist grandparents in navigating apps to track grades, communication with teachers and attendance.
“All grandparents have told us they need financial assistance with food and utilities,” Shell said. “Many grandparents have a need for legal guidance. There are limited affordable legal resources in the area.
“It can be hard to take a child to the doctor or enroll in school or for mental health services because some grandparents do not have legal custody. In addition, other barriers could be attempting to obtain a child’s birth certificate or shot records.”
Agencies involved in the group include the senior center, the Elizabethton/Carter County Library, the UT Extension, the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and local school districts.
“Along with grandparents, we invite agencies to attend or present based on what grandparents are saying they need,” Shell added. “We have a Frontier Health case manager attend every meeting and she specializes in behavioral health.
“Currently, our grandparents are doing a fantastic job and grandchildren seem to be doing well. It is apparent that our grandparents are navigating issues that are not within their generational realm, such as internet, social issues and mental health.
The meetings are held at the senior center at 428 E. G St. The center itself is open Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to noon. The group will meet Tuesday, Feb. 28.
Visit https://elizabethtonseniorcenter.org/ or call 423-543-4362 for more information.