ROCHESTER, Minn. – Gerry Hackman is a volunteer at the Women’s Shelter and Support Center in Rochester. There, she’s known as Grandma Gerry.
“I don't even know if staff here know her full name,” Suzie Christenson, Executive Director, said. “She does what grandmas do, she talks to the kids, she sits with them, she does puzzles.”
All as a volunteer. At 98-years-old, Grandma Gerry has been coming in about 5 hours a day, 4-5 days a week, for the past 17 years.
That’s why she’s getting the Minnesota Coalition of Battered Women’s ‘Inspire’ award. Christenson nominated Grandma.
“She does all those things nobody gets credit for,” Christenson said. “I felt her efforts to be recognized was very important.”
“I thought everybody should be getting one. Not just me,” Grandma said with a laugh.
Christenson said many of the women who come to the center, with their kids, are isolated from their families. Grandma Gerry helps them feel at home and gives them a sense of family.
Grandma started volunteering with the shelter through a ‘foster grandparent’ program. While the details of how she started are a little fuzzy, Grandma hasn’t forgotten why she started.
“When you make them feel equal, that was my object. To make them feel no less, no better, than anybody,” she said.
Age may make it harder to support the families at the center as she once did.
“What I miss, is that I can't lift the children anymore,” she said.
But she can still offer her love and laughter, and teach the women in need like they’ve taught her.
“How they, they can spring back. There's no bottom to anybody's life. You can make the best of it,” Grandma Gerry said.