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Fall festival urges drug awareness, weatherization

By Joel Hall

Clayton County Community Services Authority, Inc. (CSA), Clayton County Head Start, and the City of Forest Park celebrated Head Start's annual Fall Festival on Thursday morning.

The festival focused on youth drug awareness, as well as programs to help residents stay warm during the coming winter months.

Gary Johnson, center manager for Head Start's Riverdale and Phillips Drive locations, said the Fall Festival has served as a mid-semester break for its pre-kindergarten students for 10 years. The festival also is used to highlight Red Ribbon Week, a nationwide campaign to teach young children what to do if someone offers them drugs.

"They watch TV a lot, so [drugs use] is very visible," to the students, said Johnson. "We discuss it with the kids ... the smell or the odor. Some adult may approach them and ask them if they want some drugs. We try to teach them what to say."

Head Start students learned songs about dialing 911 on the phone, if they come into contact with drugs near their home, or school. In addition, John Parker, Forest Park city manager, read an official proclamation describing the importance of Red Ribbon Week.

In addition, the CSA Weatherization Program, in anticipation of a very cold winter, promoted its services as well as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Weatherization Program helps seniors, the handicapped, and other people living on fixed incomes insulate and repair their homes, while LIHEAP provides low-income families with one-time cash assistance to help them pay their electric or heating bills.

Alfonso Weems, CSA weatherization coordinator, said the organization, following federal poverty guidelines, can perform a variety of cost-saving home repairs, free of charge, to residents living in Clayton, Henry, and Fayette counties. Those repairs include the installation of wall and attic insulation, door and window weather stripping, installing carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, wrapping water heaters, and replacing older light bulbs with energy-saving, compact florescent light bulbs.

"We want people to call us so we can repair their house and make it easier for them to live," said Weems. "It's going to be a real cold winter this year. We are trying our best to get the word out, so people won't have to suffer through the winter."

This year, the federal government has allotted $2,185,594 to CSA's LIHEAP fund. Charles W. Grant, executive director of CSA, did not have last year's figures, but said this year's funding has been exponential -- so much so, the program has been able to offer needy families up to $350, compared to $250 last year.

"This program needed those additional funds," said Grant. "Last year, we almost had a riot. The resources were so limited.

"This additional funding is really going to help a lot," he said. "With the shortage of energy and the increase in cost, this came right in time."

For more information about weatherization or LIHEAP, call CSA at (404) 363-0575.