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Community celebrates healthy marriages, families

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

marauz@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Marriage and Family Initiative, Inc., held its annual "Marriage & Family Day," on Thursday evening, and Larry Criss and his family were sitting on their lawn chairs, enjoying the festivities.

Criss was accompanied by his wife, son, daughter and grandchildren. He said marriage is important, because it allows one to value family. "It is not the easiest thing in the world," said Criss, who has been married for 42 years. "It is something you got to work at everyday."

About 50 participants gathered on the lawn in front of the Historic Courthouse in Jonesboro, to celebrate the importance of healthy marriages and families. People were able to enjoy meals from Chick-fil-A, and visit a variety of vendors.

The event also included an essay contest for youths in kindergarten, through eighth-grade. The children's topic: "Love Is..." They had to describe love in an one-page essay. Virginia Gray, vice chairperson of the board for the Marriage and Family Initiative, said she judged the essays. "Unfortunately, I was unable to recognize everybody, but ... all of you are winners," said Gray, to the youngsters.

The contest recognized first-, second-, and third-place winners for each grade level. The first-place winners included: Courtney Scott, kindergarten; Isaiah Martin, first grade; Ngeumo Unongo, second grade; Kristine Duong, third grade; Devin Martin, fourth grade; Dominique Forest, fifth grade; My-Ian Gray, sixth grade; Aondohemba Unongo, seventh grade; Dominick Forest, eighth grade, and Mbapelen Unongo, who is entering ninth grade this fall.

Clayton County Commissioner Sonna Singleton presented a proclamation on behalf of the county's Board of Commissioners, to Rose Marie Greene and her husband, Wesley. Greene, who is chairperson of the board of the Marriage and Family Initiative, said this is the fifth year the organization is celebrating healthy marriages and families, which are important for the foundation of a healthy community.

Mimi Holland, past chairperson, said marriages have various positive effects on a community, including less poverty, less crime, and they help children succeed in academics. She said Clayton County has a lower percentage of marriages, and a higher percentage of co-habitation, than its surrounding counties. "Not only will our county thrive, but, especially, the children," said Holland, suggesting another positive effect of strong marriages.

In an effort to increase the percentage of marriages, Greene said, the Marriage and Family Initiative is creating a "Boot Camp for Dads" program, with the Southern Regional Foundation, in which trained facilitators will interact with the fathers, she said.

The facilitators will train, and equip, new fathers with parenting skills, and talk about the importance of marriage. This will take place during the discharge process of the mother and the infant from the hospital, following the birth of the child, she said.

"We have statistics that show that at the time of birth, more than 80 percent of the single parents are considering marriage," she said. "After one year, that decreases to 12 percent," said Greene.

She said the initiative was created by ministers, business people, government officials and citizens concerned about the low percentage of marriages in Clayton County.

"What we want to do is try to help Clayton County, Ga., the United States, [get] back to what was originally intended," said Greene.