Photo by Heather Middleton
By Joel Hall
Several local grandparents, and the grandchildren they care for, will walk together down the catwalk this weekend during Clayton County's first-ever Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Fashion Show.
Sponsored by JCPenney's Southlake Mall location and the Clayton County Kinship Care Resource Center, the fashion show will raise funds for the center, which provides resources to grandparents serving as full-time guardians of their grandchildren.
The fashion show will take place this Saturday, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center in Jonesboro. According to Mary Byrd, director of the Clayton County Senior Services Department, which oversees the Kinship Care Resource Center, 40 grandparents and grandchildren will model casual, athletic, and formal wear from JCPenney's fall and winter clothing lines.
"We have had a reduction in the grant funding for our program," said Byrd. "Many of these parents are retired and they never imagined that they would be raising children again on a full-time basis. We're raising money for the Kinship program [in order] to continue to assist the grandparents."
Byrd said the Kinship Care Resource Center provides a free summer camp for children, educational field trips, tutoring, fitness classes, and computer-training courses for grandparents and grandchildren, as well as adult math classes for grandparents helping their grandchildren with homework. She said proceeds from the fashion show will help purchase software for the center's recently-established computer lab, and will help support the center's "field trips with a purpose," which are hosted throughout the year at various cultural centers around the state.
Ken Northrop, manager of JCPenney's Southlake Mall location, said this is the first time in recent memory that the store has loaned clothing for a fashion show fund-raiser. He said the store is providing youth and adult fashions from several top designers, such as Jones New York, Worthington, St. James Bay, Adidas, Nike and a.n.a. (A New Approach).
"We had something else for the Clayton County Aging [Program]" in the spring, Northrop said. "The associates raised money and bought fans so that they [senior citizens] could stay cool in the summer. I thought [the fashion show] was a very unique idea. They could have hosted an arts-and-crafts show, but kids might have not really been into it. Teenagers really like fashion and it gives the grandparents and the grandchildren a chance to connect on common ground."
Mary Thompson, coordinator of the fashion show and a grandmother in the Kinship program, said she has previously hosted fashion shows for the Adoptive and Foster Parent Association of Clayton County. In addition to raising funds for Kinship Care, she said she believes Saturday's fashion show will serve as a confidence-building tool for children in the program.
"I've done several fashion shows before with adoptive and foster parents," Thompson said. "I thought it would be great for these kids in middle school and high school. A lot of these kids lack self-esteem. This is a way to build their poise.
"A lot of people still don't know about Kinship ... a lot of people don't know how many grandparents are raising grandchildren," she added. "I'm hoping this will make a lot of people aware."
Tickets to the fashion show can be purchased for $7 in advance at the Shelnutt Intergenerational Center, located at 849 Battle Creek Road in Jonesboro. On Saturday, tickets will be $10 at the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center, at 2300 Ga. Highway 138 in Jonesboro.
For more information, call (770) 477-3417.