Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, an informal, confidential support group for people bringing up their children's children, will meet tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church, 202 N. Main St., Mount Airy.
"All I do is open the doors of the church, and put out a pot of coffee, and they come in and talk to each other," said Ellen Bonde, director of St. James Nursery and organizer of the group.
"They realize that there are other people in their situation," she added. "They are not alone."
Last year, she said, she knew of about 12 families in the Mount Airy area in which grandparents were raising their grandchildren.
This year, even more area grandparents find themselves in this situation, Ms. Bonde said.
"Drugs seem to be an underlying factor in many of the cases," she said.
She said grandparents can offer each other advice on applying for medical benefits for their grandchildren, or managing their time and energy to cope with new responsibilities.
Grandparents who suddenly find themselves with custody of their grandchildren face a unique range of difficulties, Ms. Bonde said.
Many are in their 50s, just reaching a point when they are beginning to think about retirement and the possibility of moving to a smaller home.
"All those plans have to be put on hold," she said.
Some grandparents have health problems; others are simply out of practice coping with small children.
"Their backs just aren't used to all that bending over," Ms. Bonde said.
Tomorrow's meeting is open to all grandparents, she said, regardless of whether their grandchildren are of nursery-school age or are enrolled in the St. James program.
The privacy of all participants is respected, she said, and they do not have to reveal their last names.