Photo by Heather Middleton
By Joel Hall
For grandparents who have been thrust into the role of providing for their grandchildren, Clayton County's Kinship Care Resource Center serves as a support network and a source of material aid. Many clients enrolled in the center's Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program face financial challenges, due to having to assume the responsibility of parenthood during their retirement years.
In celebration of Mother's Day, cadets from Class 240 of the Clayton Regional Law Enforcement Academy honored grandmothers in the program who have been mothers not once, but twice.
On Tuesday, 18 cadets lined up in formation to present 20 grandmothers with roses and a group Mother's Day card. In addition to the presentation to the grandmothers, cadets marched single file into the Kinship Care Resource Center with donations of food to stock its food pantry.
According to Clayton Regional Law Enforcement Academy Director Jeff Turner, the cadets in Class 240 will graduate on Thursday, becoming the 240th class of cadets to graduate from the academy. While Turner, a former county police chief, organized the Mother's Day presentation, he said the cadets used their own money to purchase food for the donation.
"Five or six years ago ... someone broke into their [Kinship Care Resource Center's] food bank and stole all of their food," said Turner. "This happened before I was police chief. I investigated it and that was my first introduction to the organization. Since then, I have always tried to help the organization.
"Especially with Mother's Day, we wanted to do something for them," he continued. "They [the grandmothers] have already raised their own children and now they are going and raising their grandchildren, and they should be commended. I asked them [the cadets from Class 240] about it and they hopped right on it, collecting canned goods."
During the presentation, academy cadets lined the resource center's dining hall, each with a rose that was given to a grandmother in the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program. Kinship Care Resource Center Director Angie Burda said the gifts were appreciated.
"I thought it was very special that on Mother's Day, they took the time to recognize the grandmothers," Burda said. "A lot of times, the grandmothers are the forgotten mothers. They aren't the biological mothers of these children, but they are the mothers these children have. You can tell by the faces of the grandmothers that they were touched when they received their roses."
Mary Byrd, director of the Clayton County Senior Services Department, oversees the Kinship Care Resource Center, in addition to other senior programs in the county. She said Kinship Care experienced large cuts in state funding this year and that the food donation from the academy cadets would help greatly.
"The economy has really affected the program," Byrd said. "Funding has been cut, grant money has been cut, but the need has been greater. We have a food pantry that is slowly depleting. It [the donation] was a great idea."
Burda said most of the organization's food donations come around Christmas and that "a mid-year gift is a really good thing to have."
Academy Cadet Brian Blackmon, of Stockbridge, said the members of Class 240 were proud to recognize the efforts of the grandmothers.
"The whole Class 240 thought it would be great, not just so we were recognized, but so that they were recognized," Blackmon said. "We really appreciate them stepping up and taking care of their grandchildren. I'm sure they are great mothers and with times being the way they are, this is a great time for us to do something."
Pearl Robinson, a Riverdale resident and a participant in the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program for more than three years, is raising four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She said the cadets' presentation and food donation was particularly meaningful.
"If it wasn't for Kinship, I wouldn't have made it," Robinson said. "They have helped me feed my kids, they have helped me keep the lights and the gas on for my kids. Sometimes, the only help we have comes from Kinship. They [the cadets] were angels that came to help us. Sometimes we smile on the outside, but we are crying on the inside. It means a lot when someone recognizes what you do."