Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Tuesday marked the semi-annual mass gathering of the retired educators.
Approximately 140 retired educators, from seven counties, converged on Jonesboro for the Georgia Retired Educators Association's Area X (the roman numeral, not the letter) spring cluster meeting. They included former teachers, administrators and school staff employees, and they represented local retired educators chapters from Clayton, Henry, Fayette, Butts, Spalding, Coweta and Carroll counties.
It was one of two cluster meetings Area X has each year.
"We have a cluster meeting twice a year, one in the summer, and then this one," said Cathy White, president of the Clayton County Retired Educators Association. She later added that she enjoys the various chapters getting together. "I just like seeing the people who taught in Clayton County, but now live in other counties, and just the fellowship of having everyone together," she said.
The cluster meeting, which lasted just over two hours, included a breakfast, lunch, a presentation on health care insurance, a presentation on statewide and area-wide community service projects, raffle drawings and a performance by the Jonesboro-based Jonesmen Quartet gospel singing group. The gathering took place at Jonesboro First United Methodist Church, in Jonesboro.
Henry County Retired Educators Association President Joan Jordan said one of the things she likes about the cluster meetings is the bringing together of the participating county-level chapters. Each county-level group was recognized during the meeting, by Area X Director James Hayman.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for members of different units to come together," Jordan said. "This gives us a chance to meet with folks from other chapters, and from the state office." She added that her favorite part of the meeting was hearing the Jonesmen Quartet performance.
But, Clayton County Retired Educators Association President Cathy White said the retired educators chapters do not exist merely to meet, engage in fellowship and listen to musical performances. The main purpose of the Georgia Retired Educators Association and its county-level chapters, she said, is to "fight for retired educators' benefits."
"The fellowship is great, but we [also] want to make sure the people who gave 20, to 30 years of their lives to education are taken care of in their retirements," White added.
The group also includes a service component, with chapters doing community services projects, she said. White explained that a statewide community service project currently underway is the collection of T-shirts to give to patients who are being cared for, long-term in state hospitals. Area X, she said, is collecting shirts for a state hospital in Milledgeville.
She said the Clayton County Retired Educators Association has participated in several county-level community service projects during the 2010-2011 school year.
"We're interested in anything that helps the community," White said. She later added, "We took up school supplies for the Forest Park Street School last fall, and we've also collected money for the J.E. Edmonds Scholarship Fund at Clayton State [University], and some hospices. We also contributed to the food bank here at Jonesboro First United Methodist Church, at Christmas.
"We figured they are nice enough to let us meet here every month, so we should do something to help them out in return," White added.