COMMERCE - Students at Alexander Elementary School know her as “MeMa” - recently she was introduced as “Ottawa County Foster Grandparent of the Year”.

Jewell Spicer has devoted 14 years to assisting students and teachers in Commerce as part of a community action partnership operated by Cookson Hills Community Action Foundation in Tahlequah.

“I grade papers and make copies for the teachers,” Spicer said, who is home recovering after a recent heart attack. “I also help the students when they need it. I'm there pretty much to give the teacher more time to teach the students.”

Spicer said she joined the program because one of her friends was involved.

“She told me it was a good thing so I thought I'd try it,” Spicer said.

The Foster Grandparent Program is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service as well as funding from the Aging Services Division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

According to Spicer, the program is not only beneficial to the teachers and students, it has also been beneficial to me.

“It keeps me from getting bored,” Spicer said..

And it very well may have been a lifesaving choice.

“It was the kids who noticed I was sick,” said Spicer. “They told the teacher ‘MeMa's sick.' I was having a heart attack and didn't know it.”

Persons 60 years of age and older may serve as a foster grandparent and receive benefits that include a stipend, mileage reimbursement, meals, training and recognition.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster grandparent may request an application by calling Ann Runnels at 918-456-0574.