CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WDEF) — Being a parent isn’t for the fainthearted.
Try being a grandparent to dozens of children not even related to you for nearly 20 years, all while making a positive impact.
That’s what one Tennessee Valley woman is doing, in sickness and in health.
JoAnn Schoate has been volunteering as a foster grandparent for about 18 years.
For the last three, she’s been helping at the East Cleveland Early Childhood Development Center – reading to the kids, rocking them, and just loving on them.
“I love the babies,” Schoate said. “I’m sorry. And they love me, I hope. They meet me in the hallway, pointing and, you know, just wanting me to get them. I just love being here.”
Being a foster grandparent is a full time job for Schoate – one she doesn’t take lightly.
She volunteers five hours a day, five days a week.
And when she finishes her shift, she already can’t wait to see the children the next morning.
“I wouldn’t stop doing this as long as I could, because it gives me a purpose,” Schoate said. “It gives me friends, and I get to love the children. And I want to help.”
Suzan Logsdon has known Schoate for more than 40 years, and says health issues – from breast cancer, to knee surgeries – couldn’t even keep Schoate away from the kids.
“After each one those, I always thought she’d return to work too soon, but she said, ‘My babies need me.’ And she missed them,” Logsdon said. “So she would go to work actually when she was a little bit puny from her surgery, but she said, ‘Well, I can sit and rock the babies. She said that’s all I need to do right now.'”
Schoate’s dedication is just one of many reasons why Logsdon nominated her for the award.
“She’s so giving and loving, and she’s adored by her family, by all of us friends,” Logsdon said. “She’s adored by these children, as you can see. She’s just a very special person, and a true substitute grandmother for some of these children who may not have a grandparent.”
Now it’s time for Schoate to treat herself.
She says she plans to use this $500 to go to Gatlinburg.
“I’m going to spend the night. I’m going to eat at some of them good restaurants. I’m going to shop at some of those outlets. I’m going to have fun,” Schoate said.
But she’ll surely be thinking about these kids, while she’s gone.