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Parks department hosting after-school celebration

By Maria José Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department will host a "Lights on Afterschool" event today, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Lee Street Park, 140 Smith St., Jonesboro.

According to department officials, the event will educate Clayton County residents, and those from surrounding communities, about the importance of after-school programs to children, families and communities. The event will include arts and crafts, food and games.

Lindsey DeLong, marketing and sales specialist for the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department, said the event is part of the 10th annual nationwide rally of after-school programs organized by the Afterschool Alliance.

"After-school programs, especially in Clayton County, are geared at keeping kids safe," said DeLong. She said the department's program "stimulates children's imaginations, enriches their lives and can provide a structured after-school activity, which supports working families."

According to DeLong, participants in the "Lights on Afterschool" event will be able to register for the Parks and Recreation Department's after-school program, which is hosted at the Jim Huie Recreation Center and Steve Lundquist Aquatic Center, the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center and the Virginia Gray Recreation Center. Those who register will receive a free family pass, for a month, to a recreation center of their choice.

Shacole Pearman, program coordinator at the Jim Huie Recreation Center, said the cost of the after-school program is $50 a week, and space is limited.

Pearman said parents, guardians and children will be able to learn about the different after-school programs available in their communities, through vendors that will be stationed at the park during "Lights on Afterschool." Vendors from 4-H, Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA are expected to be in attendance.

Pearman said The Salvation Army, and the City of Atlanta's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, are expected to bring children from their after-school programs to attend the event.

"I think the children need a positive place to go to after school," said Pearman. "Ours is more like a family ... it provides that structure and foundation."

Several elected Clayton County officials are also expected to speak during the "Lights on Afterschool" event.

"From my police background, children are most in harm's way between 3 to 6 o'clock ... meaning anything from getting into mischief, or getting hurt severely," said Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell. "After-school programs provide a safe haven for children."

Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough said after-school programs help keep students off the streets, and aim to help them become productive citizens.

"The more kids that are using Park and Recreation [after-school programs], hopefully, the less the community will need to use our services," he said.

For more information about Parks and Recreation programs, call (770) 477-3766.