Nell Melgers: An ordinary woman with a great legacy

Bob ParoskiGet Up & Go, Halls, Powell

Each one of us has the opportunity to leave a legacy.


Most likely, it is not going to be in the money or wealth we have. Most of us don’t have much. If we do, it will be gone quickly after we die.

Nell Melgers

It is not in the work we have done or are doing. A few years after we retire or stop doing what we are doing, most people will not remember what we have done.

It is not at the church we attend. Fairly quickly after we die, only a few will remember us. As time passes, even they may forget us. If they don’t forget us, what they know about us will disappear when they die.

Our legacy will be in the impact we have on others

Our legacy will be with the people we know, work and socialize with. It will be through the impact we have on them. That will be through the way we are with them, through what we say and through the way they see us acting daily.

The main place we will leave a legacy is with our family – how we are around our children, how we raise them and how they see us act has a tremendous impact on them.

Our children will frequently will be the same way with their children as we have been with them. They will do the same things with their children and grandchildren that we did with them.

That may carry on for generations. If you could see what your descendants are like a hundred years from now, there is a strong likelihood they will have the same beliefs and do the same things as you do today.

You may not realize it but you also may be leaving a legacy with your friends and their children. In fact, you can leave a legacy with everyone with whom you interact.

Nell Melgers – a woman leaving a legacy

Let me tell you about a woman who is leaving a legacy and probably does not realize it.

Her name is Nell Melgers. She serves as a Foster Grandparent at the Halls/Powell branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley for a few hours daily Monday through Friday.

Nell moved to Knoxville from Florida in 2009. Her son and daughter-in-law lived here. They had three children, 2, 5 and 8. Nell wanted to develop a close relationship with her grandchildren. So, she started watching them while their parents worked.

Initially that was full-time. When they started school, she cared for them after school. In 2014, their other grandmother moved to Knoxville from Texas. She started to watch the grandchildren.

As the children got older, they started spending more and more time with their friends and less with their grandparents. So, Nell and the other grandmother were no longer needed for child care.

When she stopped caring for her own grandchildren in 2014, Nell needed something to do. As you can imagine, Nell loves small children. She enjoys playing and interacting with them and caring for them.

She started looking for ways to help children. She heard about the Foster Grandparent Program that is part of the Office on Aging at the Knoxville Knox County Community Action Committee.

She checked it out and decided to get involved. Ever since then, she has been a Foster Grandparent. That’s what led her to the Halls branch of the Boys and Girls club. There, she works with children who are in in kindergarten and first grade.

Children today have challenges

In many families, both parents have to work. That doesn’t leave them much time to spend with their children. Most of the time they do have is spent taking their children to activities they’re involved in (soccer, football, baseball, basketball, swimming, dancing, etc.).

That can be almost every night during the week. Although they’re driving them back and forth, parents spend very little time with them.

Many children are also victims of divorce. While no couple who have children ever contemplate divorce, it does happen.

Divorce traumatizes their children. The custodial parent frequently has to work. That reduces the amount of time they have to spend with their children. The noncustodial parent only gets to spend a limited amount of time with them.

Smart phones are babysitters

When not involved with their various activities, children today are spending most of their time on games on their smart phones. These games and smartphones become their babysitters.

Even at school, children have problems. Their teachers don’t always have the time to spend with each child that they need.

Advantages of a Boys and Girls club

The Boys and Girls club fills many roles. It provides a safe place for children to go after school while their parents are working. There are many different activities for them. The people working there help to reinforce what their teachers are teaching them at school.

Children come to the club after school every day.

While there, the children in kindergarten and first grade participate in many different activities. They play games, learn words, a foreign language and math. Some learn to sew and crochet. At times they even make hats, quilts and baby blankets. They also do other projects with yarn.

They play in the gym. Before they go home, each child gets a hot meal.

Friday is Bingo Day. The Bingo cards are made up of animals or letters of the alphabet that they can recognize.

Children in kindergarten and first grade are loaded with energy

They are running here and there. Frequently, all of them are talking at the same time. Just to be heard they have to speak louder. For anyone unaccustomed to a room full of children talking, it does get pretty loud.

All the while they are there, Miss Nell is with them. She sets up the games for them and gets them started playing. She helps each one learn words and the foreign language. She also works with them on math.

She teaches those interested how to sew, crochet and knit and guides them in the projects they are working on.

The entire time she is attentive to each child and his or her needs. Just like a grandmother, she helps them any way she can.

To keep them interested in what they are doing and to reward them, she has prizes. Frequently these are suckers.

Miss Nell grows close to these children and they grow close to her

As time passes, it’s amazing to see how excited they are when she just pays attention to them or compliments them when they accomplish something.

At the end of each year, Miss Nell has an ice cream party for the children. She makes this a really special event they look forward to.

When the older children move to the second grade, they move to a different part of the building and no longer are with her daily. However, they do see her periodically and some will just come over to hug her.

Since new children come in every year, Miss Nell says she is not sad to see the older ones move on. However, it is readily apparent that she misses them.

If you were to try to describe the role Miss Nell plays, you would say

  • She loves each child just as their own grandmother does.
  • She reinforces the school teachers by helping each child learn, especially those who are having difficulty with something.
  • She supports their parents in their parenting.

Miss Nell’s legacy

Nell Melgers is definitely having a positive impact on the children at the Boys and Girls Club. As they grow older, many of them may forget her name. When they have children of their own, their children may ask them why they are doing something. Some of them may say Miss Nell was that way with me. Others may say I treat you this way because a woman at the Halls/Powell Boys and Girls Club treated me this way when I was very young.

Her legacy will live on. A hundred years from now, their descendants will not know her name but they will be treating others as she treats their ancestors today.

What about you?

Have you ever thought about leaving a legacy? Do you love children? Would you like to become a foster grandparent yourself?

You can. It’s not too late to get involved.

If you want to find out how, call Gina Whitfield, the coordinator of the Foster Grandparent Program at CAC’s Office on Aging. You can reach Gina at 865-524-2786. Just tell Gina you read about Miss Nell and you’re interested in learning more.

Bob Paroski is the volunteer blogger for the CAC Office on Aging. This article originally appeared in Bob’s Blog and is reprinted with permission. 

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