By Curt Yeomans
Jonesboro played host to the Southern Crescent's largest cluster meeting of retired educators in the recent history of the Georgia Retired Educators Association (GREA) on Tuesday.
Cluster meetings, which are gatherings of retired educator groups from multiple counties, usually bring two chapters together. The cluster meetings occasionally brings three groups together, but those meetings are rare. The cluster meeting held in Jonesboro on Tuesday brought five groups together.
Officials from the Clayton County Retired Educators Association (CCREA), which hosted the meeting at Jonesboro First United Methodist Church, said more than 100 people from Clayton, Henry, Fayette, Spalding and Butts counties attended the gathering.
"I see a group of dedicated individuals who have committed their lives to education," said Dr. Beverly Roberts, the president-elect of GREA and keynote speaker.
Roberts talked to the attendees about what programs GREA has in place for 2008. The statewide organization currently has 17,000 members, and GREA officials want to reach a membership goal of 18,000 members by the end of the year. The state officials are also working on raising $750,000 to build a permanent home for the organization, which is presently renting office space in Gainesville.
The organization continues to encourage it's members to volunteer in the community, as a way to remain active and continue helping other people. Roberts said the opportunity to bring multiple county chapters together to exchange ideas is a benefit of cluster meetings.
Lois Keith, the president of the Henry County Retired Educators Association (HCREA), said the need to continue doing what her chapter has been doing is what she got out of the meeting. HCREA recently raised $500 for the Henry County Special Olympics, and collects gifts for the Henry County Department of Family and Children Services every December.
The chapters in Clayton and Henry counties hold at least two cluster meetings every year. Keith said she liked the larger gathering of chapters, because it allowed more former educators to mingle.
"The atmosphere was great, and the conversations we had were great," Keith said.
Bill Marsh, the president of CCREA, said his time-consuming job as event planner did not give him an opportunity to talk with presidents of the other four chapters which participated in the cluster meeting.
Marsh said, however, that he gained insight into statewide programs through Roberts' presentation. Two of those programs included gathering hearing aids and used eye glasses for the disadvantaged, and working with local groups, such as the Lions Club, on volunteer opportunities.
"None of us went into this profession [education] to get rich," Marsh said. "We did it to help other people."