Anchorage Elder Mentor Leeta Topps loves her service

My name is Leeta Topps, and I moved to Alaska from Chicago and have lived in Anchorage for a long time. I enjoy reading, walking and volunteering. I love my neighbors because we live in a beautiful community. I have a lot of fun playing games with my grandkids and the kids at school. I have been an Elder Mentor for about five years. I love my service in the community and have made great friendships and connections.

At Mountain View Elementary last year, I supported children with special needs, and they were so wonderful and sweet. Runny noses and eyes tired from crying, and still they just are loving on you.

Miss Ginger picked up my things from the school when the year was over, and I remember being so surprised with the gifts the students put together for me. I'm looking at it right now. They made me all kinds of cards and drew pictures, and it says "Thank you Miss T," with photos they took of me when I wasn't looking. And they all signed it, "we will miss you." How thoughtful! Another one of the classes I helped with was a Spanish language class. Even though I couldn't understand what they were saying, we had the best time. Kindness rules. As an Elder Mentor, that love the kids put out just means everything to me.

Let me give you an example of how important it is to have an Elder Mentor in the classroom. Today there was a substitute teacher and the kids were a little all over place getting situated for the class lesson. Being an Elder Mentor, the students respect you in a special way. You are visiting the kids as a grandparent in the classroom. You're there to support them and be with them. You're not their teacher. You can say, "Alright, come on, let's sit down," and start to settle everyone for class. And the teacher doesn't have to get so stressed out. She looks to me to read to the kids, calm them down-plus, it's extra eyes, extra hands. Sometimes several of the students might be upset and having a bad day. An Elder Mentor can approach them and say, "What's going on, how are you doing, what's your problem?" That kind of thing. Then the energy completely shifts in the classroom and we get back on track.

The Elder Mentor Program helps young people grow in wisdom and respect. Children learn how to love each other and how to show compassion. They see us coming and know we are nice. We are coming to help. I'm not coming to change any laws, or step on anyone's toes, I am here for support in the classroom and in the entire school. This is for our community. What we do reaches beyond just the school.

I hope you enjoy my family recipe for Gore Springs Mississippi Pound Cake. This recipe is over 100 years old and has been passed down from generation to generation. My daughter tried adding strawberries and I liked it the first time, but not the second time. This is the only bundt cake recipe we use in our family.

"Gore Springs Mississippi Pound Cake"

Feeds a family of five or more. Cooking time: 1 hr and a half.

Bundt pan needed!

Ingredients

• 4 sticks of butter (1lb)

• 7 eggs

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• Dash of salt

• 3 cups cane sugar

• ¾ cup whole milk

• 4 cups of sifted cake flour (Swans Down Cake Flour)

• Vegetable oil*

• All purpose flour*

*For prepping the bundt pan

Directions:

Keeping it real simple and easy!

• Oil your bundt pan with vegetable oil and put all purpose flour all around the insides the pan.

• Sift your cake flour, and then mix all your ingredients together in a large bowl.

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for one hour and a half. The cake will slide right out of the pan when it's finished. You can test with a toothpick in the middle to see if it's done baking.

Why volunteering matters to seniors

Studies show that people who volunteer regularly are also healthier overall. Joining the Elder Mentor Program revitalizes the spirit and brings youthful energy into your life. Finding purpose and having students' smiling faces to look forward to can make a world of difference. Children look up to you and rely on your support and guidance. You matter and have a place in the community.

As an Elder Mentor you meet new people and expand your social network. Elder Mentors get together regularly for additional training opportunities, and build deep friendships and connections. You are part of a team of passionate, humble and giving volunteers who are your peers. At our annual training, you have the opportunity to meet all the Elder Mentors who serve around the state. Get involved in fun opportunities like being featured in local news, or sharing a recipe in our Elder Mentor Cookbook. As a part of AmeriCorps Seniors, you are invited to AmeriCorps events happening in Alaska and around the nation.

Volunteers report being happier in their daily life because of their service. Volunteering as an Elder Mentor keeps both the body and mind engaged, and focused on joyful tasks, like reading to the students. Review your knowledge and refresh your mind through helping children with their times tables, puzzles, and learning how to spell. Give from the heart, and receive so much in return.

The Elder Mentor Program is currently accepting applications for the 2023-2024 school year. Benefits for qualifying seniors 55+ include PTO, a tax free stipend, paid holidays, free meals and travel assistance. Please call for more information and to apply, 907-865-7276, and check out the online application and learn more at http://www.eldermentor.org. Reach the team via e-mail at eldermentors@ruralcap.org.

 
 
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