Angel Interview of the Month
Each month, The Angelrock Project features an Angel Interview of the Month, interviews with people who provide unique and life-saving services within large non-profit organizations. We hope that by reading their stories, you will understand their special contribution to society by working for invaluable NGO's within the organization's headquarters or in the field.
Linda Langstraat founded Adopt-A-Grandparent in August of 1978. As a recent transplant from CA, Linda, then age 35, arrived in the inner city neighborhood of Grant Park in Atlanta, GA to begin her job of ministering to senior citizens. Previously, Linda had been an elementary schoolteacher in Southern California for thirteen years, but was burned out and ready to begin a new chapter of her life. Beginning with a two year volunteer term working with thirty-five seniors who had little support and lived alone, Linda found while visiting the seniors, that the greatest need among them was to have a friend. Currently serving as Executive Director of Adopt-A-Grandparent, over 1,000 seniors have been "adopted," loved and cherished since those early days of the program in 1978.
Q. What is the mission of Adopt-A-Grandparent?
A. The Adopt-A-Grandparent Program seeks to enhance the lives of seniors through Companionship, Health and Wellness, Community Involvement and Spiritual Growth and Healing producing empowered, healthy, laughter-prone individuals.
Q. What inspired you to found Adopt-A-Grandparent?
A. After deciding to leave my 13 year-old teaching career, I moved from Huntington Beach, California to Atlanta, GA where I found an instant connection with inner-city seniors. When I first arrived in the Grant Park area of Atlanta, I did not know anyone. My actual job description read: find seniors living in inner-city Atlanta and discover their needs. With that mandate I set to work. Through an elderly woman who had gone door to door and identified 35 seniors who lived alone and were isolated and lonely, she gave me a handwritten list of their names, addresses and phone numbers. I began to call them and the first senior I talked to was blind, played the piano and organ, had a seeing-eye dog, and was also the angriest woman I have ever talked with. Fortunately, during our call she was cordial and invited me over. I immediately noticed that she needed to talk and that she was very lonely. Unfortunately, her anger did not allow her to notice. The next senior I called talked my ear off and by the third senior, I had found my niche. They all needed a friend, someone who would stand by them, accept them, support their struggle to live alone, and help them manage on their meager Social Security income.
Q. Why is this important to you personally?
A. God surprised me with love and to have an accepting heart. After the end of my teaching career, this program helped me to heal due to the non-judgmental love and attention from our seniors. My life has been changed by my involvement in the Adopt-A-Grandparent Program because of the many individuals who have cared about me.
Q. How has the organization grown since it was founded and how would you like to see it grow in the future?
A. I was just one person ministering to 35 seniors in 1978. I was their social worker and friend. After about five years of support, I started to think that perhaps there were others in the community who would profit from our love and attention, so I opened the program up to the community. From there, it really took off! This year alone, we have cared for 100 seniors, worked with 80 volunteers who visit their senior friends weekly, and provided placement for 250 one-time service volunteers.
Our strategies for our future include providing leadership training for seniors, providing literacy education and computer training for seniors, and finding a Director who will embrace our program and bring it new energy and life once I retire.
We currently offer the following programs: Adopt-A-Grandparent by matching a senior with a caring adult friend; Project Healthy Living to tackle obesity, lethargy, overeating of our delicious southern comfort food. Depression and heart disease are a few of the health issues that plague seniors and we know that seniors often desire to improve their health and don't know where to start. Through Project Healthy Living, which includes courses on healthy eating and exercise, we are tackling this important issue; Wisdom of the Ages Project inspired by the quote "When a senior dies, it's as if a library burns" is a video to help us to replicate Adopt-A-Grandparent nationwide; Shining Stars, a group founded by 20 senior leaders and is managed by seniors who collect $5 per month in fees for refreshments and fellowship.
We are happy to send out more information on these programs and our soon to be launched Celebrate Wise Women project to anyone who contacts us. Of course, we are in need of increased funding for each of these important projects.
Q. What is your most effective program?
A. Our most effective program is our Healthy Living Program. We have seen it produce lasting results with our seniors. They are losing weight, getting more active, and leading more positive lives, which are the three components of the program.
Q. Do you think the nation has enough non-profit programs for the elderly?
A. Nooooo! I receive emails regularly from people who say that their mother is lonely and lives in one state and they live in another. There is such a need for Adopt-A-Grandparent around the country. I also get emails from people who want to start a program in their area and I am happy to help them and anyone who contacts me in the future.
Q. What do you think our government can do at the local, state and national level to better assist seniors? What programs for seniors need more funding and what can the average person do to advocate the government on behalf of this issue?
A. Addressing housing and transportation needs of low income seniors is crucial. Ensuring that seniors have friends and loved ones close by as they age is also needed for the health of seniors. Also, support for Grandparent's raising their grandchildren needs to be a key component of elder services. The elderly also need help with home repair services so that they can continue to live in their homes safely. And of course, it goes without saying, that keeping Social Security solvent and strong is absolutely crucial. Georgia recently cut by 6% all aging services, retroactive to July 1, 2008. Human services seem to get cut quite quickly when there is a crisis. Accessing governmental monies is virtually impossible for a small non-profit organization if you do not have someone designated solely to writing governmental grants. And lastly, getting involved with aging networks at the local levels helps make a difference in advocating for seniors.
Q. Can you tell us a particularly special moment between you and a senior that has had a lasting effect on your life?
A. When I met Maudline Shivers she was living in a senior independent-living apartment after her beloved husband passed. She was always alone whenever I went to visit her. On one visit she said to me, "You may not believe this, but I have eight children and I am lonely. They are busy with their work, their children and their own lives. They love me but they don't seem to have time for me." This pierced me to the heart and increased my passion for my work.
Q. Do you have a motto, if so, what is it?
A. Enhancing the lives of seniors, one by one.
Q. What is your favorite book?
A. "The Prayer of Jabez" had a profound impact on me.
Q. Who is your mentor?
A. Bob Lupton, the founder and President of FCS Urban Ministries, has been my mentor and partner in ministry for 30 years.
Q. How can people volunteer and help?
A. They can volunteer by visiting a senior weekly, serving on our Advisory Board, helping us at our events (Dance-A-Thon, Christmas Party), delivering frozen turkeys for Thanksgiving and can donate $25 Kroger gift cards for the Healthy Living Project, provide $25 CVS gift cards for our Christmas Party, and make donations of any amount to support Adopt-A-Grandparent.
Q. Please leave us with a lasting thought.
A. God continues to perform miracles today. I watch the miracles in our senior's lives and I too, am an example of His miracles. I am so thankful for His wisdom and guidance.
For more information on Adopt-A-Grandparent, please visit their website at www.adoptagrandparent.org. For questions or comments, please call 404-627-4304.
Please send financial donations made payable to: Adopt-A-Grandparent
Past Angel Interview of the Month
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To view all past Angel Interviews of the month, please click here.
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