“Granny” Elnora Terry lost her son to gun violence. She found her new beginning with AmeriCorps Seniors in the Foster Grandparent Program. Her uplifting and powerful story offers insight as she demonstrates a powerful commitment to creating brighter futures by mentoring and tutoring children in high-need elementary schools and learning centers.

She shares that her husband was in the U.S. Army, and they traveled to Europe, Hawaii, Texas, Florida, California, and the state of Washington, finally ending up in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In the podcast, she explains how her life experience shaped the woman she is today. She casually mentions that by watching the behavior of others — some good and others not so good — she learned to live and model her life from those observations.

AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith came to Nashville recently to meet you and some of the other FiftyForward Foster Grandparent volunteers. What did that visit mean to you?

I view it as he just wanted to know a little something about each of us. I’m always glad to talk about the program… He doesn’t have to say anything to me, but he appreciates what I’m doing. And everybody likes appreciation. 

What is the Foster Grandparent Program?

The Foster Grandparent Program is an avenue that after you have worked all your life and retired — and you’re older — some of us are still useful and can still contribute.  I’m that type of person. I don’t want to sit down and rust out. I want to wear out. I want to do it until I can’t do anymore, and if I can contribute something that’s of benefit — especially to children — If I can benefit them, and enhance their growing, it’s the best thing in the world that could happen.

How did it feel to go to Washington, D.C., to tell your story?

I had a ball. I felt just as comfortable as if I had been right here just talking to a friend. My story … it is tragic. But it’s only tragic if you let it put tragedy in your life. I’m not saying that I’m glad it happened. What I’m saying is I lost my only child, and that is the worst thing that can happen in your life as a parent. But there is a reason for everything happening. That’s my belief. I lost him and I thought that since he was an only child, I would never have grandchildren.

During the conversation, Elnora Terry expands on her roots, her day-to-day experience as a Foster Grandparent volunteer, and how she now has grandchildren through a different path in life. She offers countless statements that speak volumes. This one says so much. “Children are the most honest, loving, kindest human beings on earth. If we would pattern ourselves by following a child, there would be no problems on this earth. We’d all be loving and kind.” She also speaks firsthand about the gifts she receives through intergenerational sharing with others.

Do you have any advice for others who might have lost a loved one … specifically a child?

When you lose a child, that’s the worst tragedy in the world… And if I wanna cry, I have me a good cry… But my method is to relieve the pressure. If I don’t relieve the pressure, I’d lose my mind. And like I said, there’s a reason you’re still here on earth. You still can be useful. Look for the granny program. We take grandaddies. You can contribute. It does not mean that it has to be blood for it to be your child.

In this podcast, Elnora Terry recounts how she faces the hard knocks of life including loss, mental health, and aging with enthusiasm and positivity that are contagious. The warmth, joy, and enthusiasm she shares, at the age of 83, are palpable and encouraging, leaving us with memorable examples and words of wisdom that will resonate with all of us at any age.

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