At one time, Bill Hougland said he wasn’t a morning person.

But for the past five years, the Brownstown man has walked into Teresa Meyer’s first-grade classroom at Brownstown Elementary School bright and early on weekday mornings and stayed until noon.

Once he walks into the room, wearing his blue vest, he is greeted with hellos, hugs and high-fives.

“The kids are a motivating, uplifting part of my day. If I’ve got to work in the evening, I get a good start to my day,” Hougland said. “How that classroom goes has a big bearing on how my day goes.”

Hougland is one of seven Foster Grandparents at the school and one of 15 currently serving at a public or private school in Jackson County.

The Foster Grandparent program was established in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson as a “War on Poverty” project to assist older Americans living on fixed incomes. It began as a pilot project of 20 programs to entice low-income people over 60 in community service to demonstrate the effectiveness of the service model.

The program quickly revealed the positive effect that the life experience of the thriving older Americans made them especially well-suited to form meaningful relationships with children with exceptional or special needs.

Today, the program is for adults 55 and older who meet federal low-income eligibility guidelines. It is administered under the Corporation for National and Community Service, which provides federal grants for national service programs.

Locally, the Foster Grandparent program started in 1973 in Jennings County at the Muscatatuck State Developmental Center.

As state institutions were closing, the national Foster Grandparent programs were being shifted from the institutional to the community setting.

In July 1990, Aging and Community Services of South Central Indiana, doing business as Thrive Alliance, became the nonprofit sponsoring agency of the Foster Grandparent Program of South Central Indiana. Then the program expanded to serve Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur and Jackson counties along with Jennings in Head Start centers and elementary schools.

Read the full story in Friday’s Tribune and online at tribtown.com.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.