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Links group buys van for Clayton Kinship Care

By Joel Hall

For various reasons, a growing number of children in Clayton County are finding themselves being raised by grandparents, rather than their parents.

Often, those grandparents operate with limited resources and no transportation, all while dealing with their own physical disabilities.

Until recently, the Clayton County Kinship Care Resource Center -- the county's single resource center for grandparents who find themselves thrust into the role of provider -- lacked it's own transportation.

That was, until the Azalea City (metro Atlanta) Chapter of The Links, Inc., one of the oldest service organizations for helping African-American women, raised $50,000 for the organization -- part of which was used to buy a new, Navy blue, 2009, Ford Econoline 350.

Angela Burda, coordinator of the Kinship Care Resource Center, said the 15-passenger van will assist the center in transporting some of the 147 families it serves, to and from after-school programs, field trips, family strengthening programs, and health, wellness and stress management classes.

"We assist the grandparents with things that they might not be able to do on their own," said Burda. However, "the program didn't have [its own] transportation. We borrowed transportation from other centers in the county.

"This makes it easier for us to do field trips," Burda continued. She said that, since acquiring the van, the center has been able to take participants to places such as the Georgia State Fair in Perry, the most-recent Coalition of Advocates for Georgia's Elderly (CO-AGE) conference in Athens, and the Georgia State Capitol to advocate for funding for elderly caregiver assistance programs.

The money, which the Azalea City Chapter raised through a 2007 fund-raiser at the Georgia Aquarium, also went to help purchase a new piano for the center.

Joyce Hendricks, chapter president, said the donation fits well into the goal of The Links, Inc., which is to address national issues on a local scale.

"The government will give money to foster parents, but not real parents," said Burda. "We saw this as a major void in them getting assistance in raising a family. Nobody was helping this particular group of people that were doing the right thing.

"This was their major need ... to have some transportation," Hendricks continued. "We were delighted that we were able to raise these funds for them. It gave our members a lot of pride to know that we could do something at this level to benefit so many people."