Grandma Lydia Lee has demonstrated leadership in various roles with the Traveling Grannies/Grandpas Program and in several other organizations for more than 26 years. In order for one to become a leader, the presence of strong character, dedication, and ownership to a worthy cause, is qualification for leadership; grandma Lydia certainly fills these requirements by supplying a great deal of knowledge and wisdom to her peers and the youth she serves daily.
In 1992 Lydia Lee was one of the first Traveling Grannies in the program and presently donates 20+ hours as a role model for other Traveling Grannies/Grandpas while teaching by example the correct methods for assisting teen moms and their children. She teaches the teen moms hands-on instructions needed for maintaining a clean, safe, and healthy environment for themselves and their children, culminating in basic life skills. She spends quality time with the teen mom(s) and age-appropriate child discussing everyday concerns or problems, lending an ear, and helping to find the best solutions that will address a concern encountered with life’s daily challenges. She provides that grandparent figure missing in the lives of those she so unselfishly serves.
She has assisted an excess of 33 teen moms and their children since the program began over 13 years ago. After working with Grandma Lydia, over 75-80% of teen moms have graduated high school, maintained good jobs, and continue to make healthy and informed decisions. Grandma Lydia feels that a good education is key to a successful future. Grandma Lydia continues to be a vital part of the teen moms’ lives long after their completion of the program.
Grandma Lydia currently works with young adults at Job Corps of West Michigan tutoring/mentoring them in job readiness skills, substance abuse education and general prep courses; e.g., math, reading, communication skills, and citizenship and community skills for those youths desiring to go on to college. Her involvement with the youth does not end with the assigned duties expected of her by this program. She instinctively and unobtrusively has gained the trust of some of the most “difficult” students by letting them know that she is there for them, not as a authority figure that cannot be approached with “small” problems, but someone that is respected and will genuinely listen to their concerns.
Lydia Lee was an active leader in several neighborhood Enrichment Programs. She felt it was important to keep the neighborhoods safe and healthy for all citizens. She devotes at least much of her time to empowering neighborhood endeavors. Also, she is a devoted member and leader with the Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church and continues, though not as frequently, to be instrumental in coordinating food drives, assisting with programs to help adult seniors and children, and coordinates many activities to assist those in need.
Grandma Lydia is an Advisory Council member for the FG/TGG Program and participates in various new volunteer orientations to give them an idea of the types of things a Traveling Granny/Grandpa does. She role-plays certain situations that may arise with children regarding behavior or conflict resolution to demonstrate the proper methods to handle these situations. As a result of the experiences she shares, the grandparents and children receive hands-on training. This participation, in part, has allowed the program to grow, flourish, and develop into the success it is today. In many instances, Grandma Lydia is requested (by the Health Department and other agencies) for cases that seem difficult or challenging that requires her unique expertise.
In addition to her regular TGGP duties, Grandma Lydia donates 4-5 hours a week with Pediatric Oncology Resource Team (P.O.R.T.) for children who are terminally ill with cancer. She regularly assists one young girl with cancer whose mom has 5 other children to care for and is unable to devote a great deal of time with the child. She does not keep track of the number of people she assists, she feels she “had a lot of love growing up” and she “can give back that love,” which is precisely what she tirelessly gives to those she serves.