Ms. Clifton Sims

I’m a “Difference-Maker!” It makes me happy to see other people happy!

My Doctor said, "what you gonna do with the rest of your life? You just gonna sit at home and do nothing?" I said, “I don’t know what I can do!”

A day later, I was at Troost Fest with my grand-daughter and we saw all these old people wandering around dressed in red. My grand-daughter said, “grandma, what are all those old people doing dressed in red?” I said, “Honey, I don’t know!” Then a couple of them came up to me and said, “Hey you wanna join the Foster Grand-parents? I said, “Nah, I’m OK, I’m fine thank you” - but really I was thinking… mmm I wonder what they do? They passed me a flier for the program at RS and we moved on.

I had worked at Crown Center for thirty two years and then, in 2010, I had a stroke and suddenly I didn’t have my job anymore. I was real low, sitting at home every day, watching the soaps, going to the store, doing a whole lot of nothing. I thought I can still do something!

So long story short, I came to RS and met the Director of the Foster Grandparents Program Ms. Renee Nash. I told her, “I’m real shy and nervous” but she was real encouraging and said, “just give it a try.” So I did the training program and joined the other Foster Grandparents at Genesis Elementary School on 43rd and Cleveland. I tried it, I loved it and I’ve been there ever since. I’m in my second year now! 

All I’ve gotta do is be respectful to the kids—show them what respect is—and love on them! That’s all most of them want. I give those kids a smile and a good morning and tell them it’s gonna be alright when they’re sad, and that makes their day. I have five or six kids at a time come dancing up to me saying, “here comes Grandma! Hi, Miss C…Good morning Miss C…!” A lot of the kids don’t have fathers, some of them don’t have Grandmothers. They ask me, “what’s a grandmother supposed to do?” I tell them they’re supposed to love on you and give you hugs! They love that! These kids bring me so much joy and all I gotta do is smile and love on them, and watch their faces light up! 

I went back to the doctors for my check-up and she took one look at me and said, “What happened to you?” I laughed and told her, I’m making a difference in the lives of these school kids and I love it!

What was life like growing up for you? I was born in KC and I went to Lincoln High School. My mother was a nurse and she raised me and my five younger sisters on her own. We didn’t have everything we needed but we lived ok. I knew of my Dad but I never knew him personally. When I got married I wanted my kids to know their Dad. We’ve been married 37 years and have six kids, eight grand-kids and five great grand-kids. It’s not been easy, but we’ve made it and we ain’t about to give up!

What’s been the most challenging thing you’ve had to face? My mother dying! She wanted us to grow up to be good citizens. She told us kids, “if there’s trouble coming toward you—go the other way.” Maybe crazy, but that’s how I made it this far. I’ve taught this to my kids too, I tell them everything has consequences, walk away from trouble! Violence is really bad in this neighborhood. The police are up and down our street all the time. We’ve had five people die in the last four months. It’s rough out there!

The Foster Grandparents

That’s why its good to be part of the RS community and the Foster Grandparent’s program. We have a lot of fun and meet regularly for ongoing training and social events. We support and encourage one another and celebrate that we’re making a difference in the lives of the kids in our community! There are one hundred of us senior citizen volunteers in mentoring relationships with children from twenty eight pre-schools and elementary schools across the KC Metro area. 

What would you like to be remembered for Ms. Sims? Being a “Difference Maker!” Someone who did something for good for my community, for our children! It makes me happy to see other people happy!

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Story: Lyn Morse-Brown
Photo credit: Tom Morse-Brown