By Curt Yeomans
Frances Boykin has been raising her grandson, Stephon, on her own since her daughter, Samantha Sims, died five years ago.
Boykin, 62, a resident of Rex, thought she was alone in her situation, but she heard that an agency called Kinship Care could offer her and Stephon some assistance. She went to the agency, and began to participate in counseling sessions, where she quickly realized something - she was not alone.
Through Kinship Care, Boykin and her grandson have taken trips to places like Stone Mountain and gone to baseball games. Stephon has even joined the agency's youth choir.
"There is a lot of support here, and if I could tell them anything, I would say I appreciate everything they have done for me and my grandson," Boykin said.
Kinship Care, a part of the Clayton County Parks and Recreation's Senior Services Department, works with grandparents, aunts and uncles, who are raising young relatives. The agency offers several services, such as tutoring, housing assistance, counseling and financial and education workshops.
It also has a Christmas Angel program where individuals or groups in the community can adopt a child for the holidays and buy his or her Christmas presents. Eighty children still need "Christmas Angels" this year, said Angie Burda, the coordinator for Kinship Care.
On Friday, the people who receive assistance from Kinship Care, brought cakes, cookies and other sweets to say, "Thank You," to the agency's employees, and county officials as well.
"It [Kinship Care] has really been a help to me," said Gwendolyn Springer, 70, a College Park resident who is raising her 17-year-old granddaughter, India. "They pointed me in the right direction and have a lot of programs that have been very beneficial to me and my granddaughter."
Burda said the holiday event gives the agency a chance to raise awareness of its presence among county employees, as well as thank the county for providing the service. "A lot of people don't know about us," Burda said. "If they [the county employees] are out in the community and come across someone who needs assistance, they can say 'Oh yeah, we have a program that can help you out.'"
Participants, Boykin, Springer, Mary Carroll and Carrie Dixon said they would have a hard time raising their grandchildren, if it was not for Kinship Care. "Like Christmas, for example," said Dixon, 73, a Forest Park resident who is raising four grandchildren. "There's no way I can buy them all those Christmas presents like Kinship Care can."
Carroll, 49, a resident of Jonesboro, said the agency has provided mentoring to her three grandchildren, and the trips offered by Kinship Care have been much appreciated.
"Those are trips that I couldn't afford myself," Carroll said. "They have really been here like a family. It has been a really big help. Without Kinship Care, I don't know what we'd do."