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Volunteer All-Stars: 5 Grandparents Who Are Changing Lives

These amazing grandparents have devoted their time to helping those in need.

Grandparents can help teach their grandchildren how to walk, how to talk and how to read, but more importantly, grandparents can teach their grandchildren one of life’s greatest lessons: the importance of giving back to others.

To celebrate grandparents who have dedicated their lives to giving back to others, we’ve profiled seven truly amazing grandparents and role models who are making a difference. Read their stories, and get inspired!

Charles Van Kessler, grandfather of four
founder of Passion 4 K.I.D.S., Encinitas, California

Image of Charles Van KesslerDuring World War 2, Charles Van Kessler’s family was captured by the Nazis, forcing him to live in a state-run orphanage for eight years. An only child, he was spared by the Nazis and sent to an orphanage because his mother was Catholic, though his father was Jewish. The experience gave him the tremendous ability to empathize with homeless, neglected and abused children, and when he moved to Texas in the 1960’s, he immediately began helping the children who were living on the streets on the Texas-Mexico border.

Years later, Charles, 71, started his charity organization Passion 4 K.I.D.S., which stands for Kids in Desperate Situations. Alongside his wife Linda, Charles fights for the needs of children who are homeless, severely disadvantaged, abused, neglected or ill. “Quite a few are physically, emotionally or mentally handicapped,” says Mr. Van Kessler, “or are in the foster care system because of parental drug and alcohol abuse.”  Passion 4 K.I.D.S. serves as mentors, coordinates with doctors to provide necessary medical care, and raises funds to help with medical and living expenses.

Charles says: “A recent case near to my heart was Izaiah, a baby who was hit by an underage drunk driver and whose brain became severed from his spinal cord. In order to help his 22-year-old parents, who had no health insurance, we helped facilitate his medical treatment and coordinated with 64 local San Diego organizations to retrofit his home to accommodate his special needs.” Charles draws on his own heartbreaking experiences as a child for motivation to continue in his charitable work, saying, “After suffering years of abuse in an orphanage, I feel like I have to give back to other children in need in any way I can.”