Senior support gets the call from Virtue Church

Virtue Cumberland Presbyterian Church has found a new way to serve the community: by hosting a monthly support group meeting for a unique, yet rapidly growing segment of the population.

The church is partnering with the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee’s Office on Aging’s Grandparents as Parents program to host Grandfamilies Together support group meetings, beginning from 10 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Aug. 8.

This first meeting will discuss “Custody and Adoption,” and guest speaker will be Knoxville attorney Dennis Francis, whose own topical knowledge is personal, as he is raising his own grandchild.

It will be the first time in the nearly 20-year history of Grandfamilies Together that a satellite support group will be offered “on the West side” of Knoxville, said GAP program director Tracy Van de Vate, who notes a chapter does meet regularly at the CAC’s L.T. Ross Building along Western Avenue.

“This is a partnership we are really exited about it,” Van de Vate added, describing Grandfamilies Together as a social network that also offers unique educational opportunities. “We are thrilled they came and said they wanted to do something. The population they are targeting is one that is typically older, and coming downtown is not always convenient for them.”

“Working with them came out of a visioning exercise we did as a church, where we were planning for our future and looking for a way to serve the local community,” explained VCPC secretary Cindy Winchester, who is helping coordinate the outreach program, and said some of the inspiration came from the church’s own membership.

“There are a lot of grandparents taking care of their children’s children — even in our congregation — due to a variety of circumstances,” added Winchester, who did her own research on the topic and found that the increasing opioid epidemic is one huge causational factor. “There are more than 4,300 families in Knox County alone that are raising their grandchildren, and nationally it is off the charts, with more than 2.6 million children in the care of grandparents or other family members.”

Grandfamilies Together is open to any grandparents raising grandchildren, and VCPC

In addition to hosting this new outreach, Winchester said the church hopes to offer additional related services, including spiritual assistance and options for self-care, “which is often the biggest need.”

The Grandfamilies Together program is an outreach of the Grandparents as Parents program, which itself offers support and information regarding benefits, custody and guardianship, financial assistance, health and mental health services and even housing.

The support group is free, and open to any grandparents or caregivers raising children not their own — even those in neighboring counties, not just Knox, Van de Vate said.

Light refreshments and childcare will be provided. Guests needing childcare are asked to make reservations in advance.

For information, contact Van de Vate at 865-524-2786 or Winchester at 865-966-1491.