In August of 1978 a green Californian, Linda Langstraat, age 35, arrived in the inner city neighborhood of Grant Park in Atlanta, GA, to begin the job of ministering to senior citizens. Linda had been an elementary schoolteacher in Southern California for thirteen years, was burned out and ready to begin a new chapter of her life. Mennonite Central Committee sent her to Atlanta for a two year volunteer term. 35 seniors who had little support and lived alone had been identified by Lois Johnson, a senior herself, who lived in Grant Park. Linda found, while visiting with her new-found senior friends, that the greatest need among them was to have a friend, someone to visit with them, someone to listen. Simple as that!! So she did. Linda immediately felt a strong call of the Lord to minister to these seniors.
Soon after arriving in Atlanta, Linda attended a workshop given by Bob Lupton, Executive Director of FCS Urban Ministries, teaching her more about the folks she had come to serve. He spoke of the Bible passage John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Linda knew she wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these seniors she had quickly come to love. She also discovered in Bob someone who understood and encouraged her call to seniors. She and Bob began meeting on a weekly basis to explore ways to work together. Bob invited her to join the staff of Family Consultation Service when her two-year term with MCC was completed. Raising the support needed to carry out her work began that day in late 1978.
As Linda sat and visited with “her” seniors, she noticed repairs on their homes that needed to be done, she noticed toenails that were too long, she noticed hair that needed to be washed – and she pitched in and helped the seniors accomplish these overdue chores. Churches quickly became involved and provided a hot water heater when needed, weeding overgrown yards, and contributing painting jobs that had long been neglected, due to the aging of the senior, lack of finances, etc.
After seven years Linda discovered that befriending 35 seniors was giving her much more than it was giving the seniors. She realized that healing was happening in her life due to her “adopting” these seniors. This healing was profound and deep. This call of God was changing her life. What if she offered this opportunity to others? The name Adopt-A-Grandparent Program came into being as Linda began inviting the others to embrace a senior. Over 1,000 seniors have been “adopted”, loved and cherished since those early days of the program in 1978.