The satirical trope of the grandfather is of a crotchety old man, usually in suspenders, threatening locals with some tool-shed implement to get off his lawn. But in White Plains, Westchester grandpas are putting their time to much better use, elevating the youth of their community rather than chasing them away.
Founded in 2018 by Frank Williams, executive director of the White Plains Youth Bureau, and Jim Isenberg, PhD, former executive director for the NY region of the North American Family Institute, Grandpas United is a multigenerational mentorship initiative that pairs local youth with volunteer granddads who offer not only their time and attention but also their vast experience both professionally and for life in general. The program, despite being relatively new and unique, has been a phenomenal success so far, attracting as many as 70 grandfathers serving many hundreds of kids between the ages of 8 and 21.
A success since its inception, Grandpas United has attracted as many as 70 local granddads devoted to helping Westchester youth.
“As far as we’re aware, the Grandpas United model is the only of its kind in the country,” says Isenberg, who is himself, along with Williams, a proud grandpa. The two men also point out that Grandpas United is diverse, with volunteers from all racial and ethnic backgrounds helping kids who are at least as diverse.
“I love this organization, and working with the other grandpas is so heartwarming.”
— Wayne Sobers
Finding their way to the program from many conduits, including schools, churches, youth court, and families, the GU mentees participate in a variety of enriching activities. In addition to one-on-one sessions, Grandpas United offers such fun group activities as “Grandpas Go to School,” “Coffee With Grandpas,” “Grandpas Go to Camp,” “Grandpas Got Talent,” and its newest entry, the practical, future-oriented Entrepreneur Program, in addition to a roster of awards events and scholarships.
“I love this organization, and working with the other grandpas is so heartwarming,” says volunteer grandpa and White Plains resident Wayne Sobers, who is a certified professional life and business coach and former Naval officer. “Everyone involved works so earnestly to get the best outcomes for the youth of White Plains, and that means so much to so many of the kids we mentor.”
Williams and Isenberg know they are on to something good, which is why their ambitious plans include bringing Grandpas United models to communities throughout Westchester and the rest of the country.