Mississippi mom, daughter share love for helping other people’s children

Published 5:56 am Saturday, May 15, 2021

One mother, one daughter – and two foster grandparents.

Vallonia Davis and her daughter, Vanessa Alford, spend their free time together helping out at West Lauderdale Elementary School.

“I don’t know what I would do without her,” Alford said of Davis. “A lot of people call me little Val, and say I’m just like my mom.”

The Bailey natives volunteer at the school from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every day except for Wednesday. Davis works in one class, while Alford helps out in another.

The Lauderdale County Foster Grandparent was established in 1972 to provide volunteer opportunities for people age 55 and older. The volunteers serve as tutors and mentors in schools and other settings in Lauderdale, Clarke, Jasper and Kemper counties.

Davis – known as “Grandma” has been a foster grandparent for more than 26 years, helping out in Donna Woodall’s pre-K exceptional needs class for the last five years.

Before joining the program, she was a cafeteria manager in the Meridian Public School District, spending 16 years at Meridian High and a decade at Carver Junior High.

“I decided to become a foster grandparent because it gave me something to do and I enjoy the little children,” said Davis, 88. “It keeps me young…I do this to keep myself going and active.”

Woodall, the teacher, described Davis as an asset to her classroom.

“She’s the one they go to when there’s a little down time, when they need someone to read a story, or if they want to climb up in her lap to get a few extra hugs,” she said. “That’s what they know Grandma is really good at.”

Like her mother, Alford also has a passion for helping children, serving as a teaching assistant and working at the Toomsuba Head Start.

“This is not really new to me,” she said of being a foster grandparent. “I’m like my mom and I enjoy kids.”

Before she was a foster grandparent, Alford would drop her mother off at the school. Eventually, she decided to join her in the classroom.

“I used to take momma to work, every morning,” Alford recalled. “When they dropped the age level, I said okay, I’m taking you and coming back to pick you up, so I might as well join too.”

Alford said being a foster grandparent allows her to help children succeed.

“I had to do it again because I like the kids,” she emphasized. “Once you see that you are helping them – that just gives me joy…I would encourage other senior citizens to join this program.”

For her part, Davis said she doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

“I’m trying to hopefully do it for another year,” she said with a smile. “I’d like to stay home and sit on the couch, but my daughter won’t let me.”