The Wilmer Way: Fostering the Future

Published in Wilmer - Annual Report 2019

With age comes wisdom, and through the Foster Grandparents program sponsored by the nonprofit Family and Children’s Services in Baltimore, senior citizens volunteer to share their hard-earned knowledge with children who lack such perspectives in their lives.

Some foster grandparents are dispatched to schools and churches in the community to read aloud to children to inspire a love of reading and learning. As the program’s volunteers are typically retired and living on fixed incomes, some need basic services, like vision care. And, without good vision, many cannot serve as readers. That’s where the Wilmer Eye Institute comes in.

In early 2019, members of Wilmer’s tech float pool — a group of technicians who “float” among Wilmer’s satellite locations from Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center to Bethesda — got wind of the need for basic eye screening in the foster grandparent community. So, on a sunny day last January, they packed up their screening gear and headed out to Union Baptist Head Start in Baltimore for a day of free eye screenings.

Alie Collins is the lead tech in the float pool and was one of the volunteers. She says volunteer opportunities like this one are not uncommon for members of the float pool, who visit homeless shelters and school health fairs. For her, it’s just part of the “Wilmer Way.”

During their day of preventive care, the Wilmer volunteers screened the foster grandparents’ vision and asked if they had glaucoma, a family history of glaucoma or diabetes. In more serious cases, the screeners referred people to the appropriate Wilmer specialist.

“For many of these folks, it had been a long time since their last exam. Some had never had an eye exam at all,” says Adam Busey, another of the Wilmer techs who volunteered. “We really stress the importance of eye care and regular exams.”

“I was at the screening. It was really easy. They set up everything pretty quickly,” says Bianca Joseph, a case manager at the nonprofit who reached out to Wilmer to set up the event. “The staff gave the seniors information on how to get prescriptions for glasses and things like that. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.”

For Collins, who usually works with children, the opportunity to serve people of a different age range was a valuable experience.

“Every day, I learn something new volunteering,” Collins says. “I find it very rewarding."