By Joel Hall
On the lawn of the historic Clayton County Courthouse in Jonesboro, couples and families were reminded Thursday that marriage can work, "if you work at it."
More than a hundred people heard marriage testimonies, listened to essays about marriage, and received marriage, and family advice, from a dozen organizations, during the fifth annual Clayton County Marriage and Family Day.
Mimi Holland, chairman of the Clayton County Marriage and Family Initiative's board of directors, said the organization started the event with the hopes of reversing local trends of divorce and single-parent households.
She said partners, such as Clayton County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), the Department of Family and Children Services, and Marriage Matters (a program of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro), help provide examples as to how healthy marriages support physical health, emotional stability, and child development.
"We try to equip people with education [and] information on healthy marriages," Holland said. "When we started doing this, there were not many organizations around the state promoting marriages. Now, there are 12 other organizations around the state that are doing the same thing. We want them [patrons] to understand that this is something desirable. There is no perfect family, but you have to work at it, and be committed to one another. It's something to aspire to, and look forward to."
During the event, families were invited to prayer, offered greetings by Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell, treated to a performance by gospel rapper J-South, and heard marriage testimony from a local couple, Reginald and Ouida Burke, who maintained their marriage despite several challenges involving alcohol, and general neglect.
Attendees also heard winning entries from the organization's "My Marvelous Mom" Essay Contest, in which local elementary school students wrote about what makes their mothers wonderful.
One winner, Destin Hope, a rising sixth-grader at M.D. Roberts Middle School in Jonesboro, said the ingredients of his mom include: "a pinch of 'go to bed Destin!," "one pound of you are the best son,'" "one teaspoon of 'don't make me come upstairs!'," and "three drizzles of 'you are my baby.'"
Randy Burgess, manager of Truett's Grill in Morrow and board member of the marriage-support group, has been married for 10 years. He said Clayton County Marriage and Family Day offers an outlet to people who want to stay married, but don't know how.
"A lot of times, it is really easy to give up on a marriage ... but there are resources out here to help people through it," Burgess said. "People won't know about these resources, unless we tell them about [them]. This is an outlet that says, 'Its OK to stay married.'"