CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A growing number of children in the Mountain State are being raised by their grandparents. A job that is no easy task, but Bonnie Dunn, to put it simply, was born to help.
Bonnie Dunn is the director of West Virginia State University’s “Healthy Grandfamilies program”, providing free information and resources to grandparents raising grandchildren. It’s a much-needed program in a state with an unenviable problem.
“We have been able to operate for three years. The legislature asked two years ago for me to come and testify what we have discovered. It woke them up to the problem in the state. At the time we were fourth in the nation for grandparents raising grandchildren. We are now second,” Dunn explains.
Bonnie has helped lead the program from the very start and under her direction has helped stretch the program into all 55 counties in the state. There’s a reason the program seems to be a perfect fit for Bonnie.
“Would you say she was made for this position?” 13 News Anchor Hannah Goetz asks during a Zoom interview with one of Bonnie’s co-workers.
“Oh absolutely, absolutely, ” replies Sue Burton, a Lincoln County Family and Community engagement coordinator.
Burton works with the healthy grand-families program and is raising grandkids of her own. She says Bonnie’s passion is nothing less than remarkable.
“I called her one day and I said ‘Hey Bonnie, I have a grandmother that got two of her grandkids needs some bedding and a grandmother needs some cookware’… and called me and said ‘Hey Sue, can you meet me on the corridor? I have all the stuff for you,’ and I’m like ‘Wow Bonnie, you’re just amazing,” says Burton.
“I was raised by my grandparents. It’s not something I talk about a lot but I said this has really hit home… too close, but I said, I am, I just feel this is where I need to be. This has all happened for a reason. It’s divine intervention…and I had many of my friends who have known me for years and years, knew my grandparents have said, ‘Your entire life has been laid out to bring you to this place that you would have the compassion and the drive to help these families,'” Dunn explains.
Andy Roberts and his wife were among the first to go through the program with Dunn.
“The people at CPS they told me I was too old…as grandparents we weren’t prepared for this,” Roberts explains the difficulties at the start of their journey.
But Dunn helped get them on track.
“She gave me part of her vision to become my vision,” Roberts raves on about Dunn’s support.
Andy Roberts has been raising his grandkids for a few years now and thanks to the program… and Bonnie Dunn… he’s able to brag about his children turning into remarkable kids.
“He is on the honor roll, principal’s honor roll, every year at school,” Roberts boasts about his, now, son and then goes on to do the same about his daughter, “She goes to pre-school, she is a fireball, she is just a terrific kid. She’s a loving, sweet, terrific little spoiled kid.”
What is truly remarkable about Bonnie’s story is that she is a part of the reason Andy can brag about his now adoptive children….and Nancy and Pete Cook you see below were able to take their grandkids on a real family vacation…and get them special new bedding, something that they may have never had.
It’s photos like that and letters like this which speak so much to Bonnie Dunn’s character:
“To Whom it May Concern,
I had picked up my mail but had not opened it for a couple of days. My mother has been in the hospital for the last week, and it has been a very hectic and stressful with her not being here. I finally sat down to go through my mail and found this letter. This could not have come at a better time and has been such a blessing to receive. I cannot express how grateful I am to receive this. Just before finding this, I thought about several of the things the kids needed and wondered how to get them. God truly does provide for all our needs.
Thank you and God bless you.”Bonnie Dunn reads a letter from a grandparent in the program