History of Appalachian Senior Programs

Appalachian Senior Programs has worked diligently for many years to serve the surrounding communities through two volunteer based programs; the Foster Grandparent program and the Senior Companion program. The Foster Grandparent program has been assisting children in five North Carolina counties (Avery, Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes) since 1980. The Senior Companion program was added eight years later to assist older adults in the same five North Carolina counties.

Foster Grandparent Program

The Appalachian Foster Grandparent Program was established in 1980 under the sponsorship of New River Mental Health and covered Avery, Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes counties. The program was community based with elementary schools, Head Start programs, and day care centers as the stations where foster grandparent volunteers would conduct their volunteer work. Initially, there were 66 volunteers.

In 2003, the Department of Sociology at Appalachian State University in Boone (Watauga County), NC became sponsor of the Appalachian Foster Grandparent Program, under the leadership of Dr. Lorin Baumhover. Dr. W. Edward Folts served as Executive Director from 2004-2019. He served as Co-Executive Director with Dr. Amy Dellinger Page 2019-2020, and she became Executive Director in 2020, upon Dr. Folts’ retirement from the university.

The Appalachian Foster Grandparent Program continues to strengthen and support our community by providing classroom assistance to teachers and one-on-one support to students in Head Start programs, developmental day programs, and K-8 public schools in our five-county service area. Our mission is to provide meaningful volunteer opportunities for low-income senior citizens that will enhance their lives and, at the same time, enhance and improve the lives of the children they serve.

Senior Companion Program

The Appalachian Senior Companion Program was established in 1988 under the sponsorship of New River Mental Health and covered Avery, Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes counties. The program was community based with Agencies on Aging, Adult Day Cares, Hospitals, and institutional settings as the stations where the Senior Companion program would conduct their volunteer work. There were 25 volunteers initially.

In 2003, the Department of Sociology at Appalachian State University in Boone (Watauga County), NC became sponsor of the Appalachian Senior Companion Program, under the leadership of Dr. Lorin Baumhover. Dr. W. Edward Folts served as Executive Director from 2004-2019. He served as Co-Executive Director with Dr. Amy Dellinger Page 2019-2020, and she became Executive Director in 2020, upon Dr. Folts’ retirement from the university.

The Appalachian Senior Companion Program continues to strengthen the community by providing services for elderly who desire to maintain their independence in their own home, but need assistance. Providing assistive services to older residents promotes a connectedness with one’s community that might otherwise be lost. Less obvious however, is the beneficial impact on the community brought about by providing meaningful activities for volunteers and involving community leaders in the process.