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Center's piano lessons bring families together

About five children, along with their relatives, were eager to take piano lessons at the senior center in Jonesboro, recently.

Nine-year-old Ahsheerah Leigh, of Riverdale, put her fingers to work, playing the song, "London Bridge" on the piano at the Shelnutt Inter-Generational Center, at 849 Battle Creek Road.

The youngsters, and their relatives, were there for the piano lessons provided free of charge to members of the Kinship Care Program at the senior center, according to Fannie Marsh, the piano instructor.

Marsh said members of the Kinship Care Program are grandparents, and other relatives, who are taking care of children of an immediate family member. There are 27 participants, scheduled throughout the weekdays, for the 30-minute lessons, she said. Marsh, who is also an aide at the senior center, said she teaches the piano lessons Monday, through Friday, from 2 p.m., to 7 p.m.

The lessons, she said, are for the relative, the child alone, or for both parties.

Children, ages 5 to 18, are eligible to participate, if their relatives are raising them and are part of the program, said Marsh.

Thomas Hollington, 48, Ahsheerah Leigh's uncle, said he and his wife are raising her, along with three more nieces, and nephews. The mother was unable to take care of her children, so she dropped them off with Hollington. There are 11 youngsters in the household, including his own children, he said.

"It helps bring kids together, and helps them interact with one another," said Hollington, about the piano lessons. "It teaches them patience."

He said he and his wife have been a part of the program for about three years. They discovered it through information provided the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services. "My wife was looking for resources to help her with her nieces and nephews," he said.

Jean Kincaid, 48, said her 6-year-old granddaughter, Marissa Kincaid, enjoys the piano lessons at the senior center, too. "It gives them [children] something to strive for," said Kincaid.

She said piano students work hard to make it to the annual recital at the senior center, which will occur in April 2011.

Nearby, Gladys Watts, 7, was practicing the musical scales on the piano, as her grandmother, Gladys Perkins, sat beside her, and joined her. Both Watts and Perkins smiled with joy as they each played with one hand.

Perkins said she was visiting the Frank Bailey Senior Center in Riverdale, when the Kinship Care Program was brought to her attention a T-shirt advertising it, which was worn an employee of the senior center.

She added that she is taking care of her 7-year-old granddaughter, because her son is ill.

Perkins said the program offers resources for relatives and the children they are raising. It is also a support system for the relatives, and gives them a chance to meet others in their shoes.

Angela Burda, kinship care coordinator at the Shelnutt Inter-Generational Center, said the program has been officially in business since April 2004.

According to the Clayton County Senior Services Department, the program also offers other services, such as a "Breakfast Talk Support Group," "Youth Rap/Teen Rap," and "Family Night Pot Luck."

For more information about the program, call Angela Burda, at (770) 473-5788.