In the Spotlight: Foster Grandparent Shirley Collins

Published on July 23, 2018 

For the last 25 years, Shirley Collins has been offering her time and talents to children and teenagers in need through our Foster Grandparents program!

“I wasn’t doing anything, but I didn’t want to just sit around,” she says of herself all those years ago. “So I came here to start helping the children however I could.”

She started as a role model and mentor to teenagers at Covenant House. More than a decade ago, she transitioned St. Mary’s Academy, offering a different set of services to young children there.  

Every school day, Ms. Shirley spends time with the children at St. Mary, helping them not only with their schoolwork, but also with manners, behavior and so much more. She helps them read, write and do math. Ms. Shirley jokes that math looks a little different now and her students often have different methods of solving the problems, but they get to the same answer in the end.

Ms. Shirley believes that her work as a foster grandparent is important because some children may not get enough of the things they need to mature and grow at home – attention, empathy, opportunities to socialize, etc. She knows their parents work hard and just may need an extra helping hand to teach their children the little things.

Her favorite part of volunteering as a foster grandparent, she says, is the children. When she sees her current foster grandchildren out and about in public, they’ll say, “There’s Grandma Shirley!”

Some of her original foster grandchildren from her time at Covenant House have grown up to be doctors, nurses and successful adults – but they all still remember their Grandma Shirley.

For years, she’s told each and every child, “Whatever you do, do your best. Never give up.” One of her foster grandchildren even wrote it on a poster and hung it in her home as a constant reminder!

Ms. Shirley credits her connection with and positive impact on the children to her good intentions. “They can tell when you have a good heart – they’re drawn to that,” she says of the children.

After 25 years of service and counting, Ms. Shirley has no plans to slow down any time soon. “I love what I do, my children love me and I’ll keep going until I can’t go anymore,” she shares.

Thank you for your many years of service, Ms. Shirley – and here’s to many more!