By Joel Hall
Various ministries, businesses, and non-profit groups gathered on the lawn of Clayton County's historic courthouse Thursday to promote the idea that marriage is worthwhile.
About 150 people turned out in Jonesboro to celebrate the fourth annual Marriage and Family Day, sponsored by the Clayton County Marriage and Family Initiative.
The event honored couples with more than 50 years of marriage under their belts, awarded children who wrote inspirational essays about their families, and featured pro-family magicians, musicians, and entertainers.
Mimi Holland, chairman of the initiative, said the nation spends $112 billion annually supporting families and children as a result of divorce. She said the event helps promote the idea that marriages can be fulfilling and beneficial to the community.
"That [$112 billion] equals what the government was spending on the Iraqi war per year, at the height of the war," Holland said. "That is just the cost of family fragmentation.
"Our overall vision is for citizens, the faith community, [and] the business community to all work together to have a community that thrives," she added. "No matter where you get the research, it says that healthy marriages and families create healthier communities."
A number of businesses and organizations hosted an information fair in conjunction with Marriage and Family Day, including: Calvary Refuge Center; Marriage Matters of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro; Marriage Works, Inc., of Henry County; Catherine House, Inc., women's homeless shelter; AMERIGROUP Community Care; and the Georgia Family Council.
Calvary Refuge Center in Forest Park serves as the county's only homeless shelter that houses men, women, and children. Tawana Tarno, the center's executive director, said Marriage and Family Day fits into the center's mission of keeping families together.
"Broken homes often lead to homelessness," she said. "Anytime you can keep a family together, you can see a difference in the children. Nowadays, people get married with the idea that if I want a divorce, I can get a divorce. They should hold on ... I believe they need events like this."
Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell, who spoke during the event, said he is supportive of Thursday's activities. "As I became chairman [in 2004], 42 percent of the new residents that year were single parents," Bell said. "I'm supportive of this initiative as it attempts to build strong families. It helps to stabilize the community."
Harold and Claudene Lambert, were among several couples married for more than 50 years to be recognized on Thursday. Claudene Lambert said marriage is a constant project that can always be improved upon.
"We've had some challenges," said Mrs. Lambert. "You can always learn things that help and enhance your marriage."