Tampa Bay is one of 16 communities nationwide that is piloting a grassroots program aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable children. Called Generation to Generation, the program mobilizes older adults, who share their talents and experience.
“The goal of the national campaign is to mobilize over 1 million adults in the next five years to serve in any kind of role helping kids,” says Bevan Rogel, Executive Director of Encore Tampa Bay, a nonprofit initiative working under the umbrella of Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.
The adults may read to children, or be a mentor or friend. “We think it’s a match made in heaven,” she says. “We think it’s going to be a good thing for the community.”
Encore Tampa Bay is part of a larger movement of Baby Boomers, who are realizing in their 50s and 60s or beyond that they want to do something more with their life: they want an encore. They want to use their skills and talents. That may mean starting a new business, volunteering, using a skill in new ways, or starting another career.
“Older people realize they can live the life that they’ve always wanted to live, instead of doing what was expected of them,” she says.
When they retire or become empty nesters, seniors aren’t always sure what they want to do. “Older adults say they want to do something to help kids, but they don’t always know where to go,” she says.
Generation to Generation, an Encore initiative, gives adults a chance to discover what they’d like to do, while sharing the depths of their experiences with young people. “It’s a learning lab. We’re trying different things,” she says. “It’s not just a call for social action. It’s really looking at going deep within different communities.”
Generation to Generation will be working with community centers, neighborhood associations, libraries, retired teachers, alumni, corporate groups and clubs to identify ways to help children through partnerships.
Encore Tampa Bay is recruiting both partners who work with older adults -- and older adults to work with children starting in January. It is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, Metropolitan Ministries, R’Club Child Care, Inc., and United Way Suncoast in the two-year program.
“We can’t do this alone. We need organizations,” she says. “People who are in front of older adults all the time.”
Initially the program is targeting three areas: Wimauma, Tampa Heights and South St. Petersburg.
Volunteer leadership roles are available in multiple areas including marketing, storytelling, evaluation, community outreach and ambassadorship.
Ultimately, the goal of Generation to Generation is to expand beyond the older and younger sets. So, there won’t be any “carding” if younger adults want to lend a helping hand, Rogel says.
“Our bigger effort is to involve all generations in helping kids,” she says.