Housing authority salutes Life Skills grads, seniors

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, November 20, 2008

FRANKLIN—Despite the chilly temperatures outside, the atmosphere was warm at the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s annual Thanksgiving Appreciation Banquet on Tuesday.

The Paul D. Camp Community College Workforce Development Center swelled with the sound of laughing voices and the smell of steaming dishes as speakers recognized the graduates of FRHA’s Life Skills programs, as well as the attending senior citizens.

“We appreciate our seniors for their wisdom, dedication and commitment,” said state Del. Roslyn Tyler, D-Sussex, who was the banquet’s keynote speaker.

Gwen Blue, head of the Life Skills program, thanked FRHA’s seniors and noted that the Life Skills program was created out of appreciation to them.

“I think it is only right that we should pay some honor to the people whose shoulders we stood on,” said Blue.

In her remarks prior to the recognition of the Life Skills program participants, Blue noted that the original goal of the program was to serve 180 residents. According to Blue, the program currently stands at 61 percent of its goal.

“I am so proud of the program and the students that have come into my life,” Blue said.

According to FRHA Executive Director Sheryl L. Frazier, Blue fills the only paid position connected with the Life Skills program. All other classes, including home ownership, finances, personal care and pharmaceutical technician, are taught by volunteers.

As children darted between the white-draped tables and adults leaned back in their chairs, full and smiling, the sense of accomplishment and contentment was tangible.

“This is what we do, as the Housing Authority,” a beaming Frazier said in reference to the evening’s events.

“People think that housing is just building buildings and tearing down stuff. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about changing people’s lives, getting them ready to move on. When we started this program, we had 40-something people who, by HUD requirements, were supposed to be put out if they didn’t go to work or to training. All but 14 of those people have now gone through training and are employed,” Frazier said.

Lillian Hicks, a graduate of the Life Skills Program, noted the positive effect the program had on her life.

“If someone would have told me years ago that I would be standing in front of a group of people giving a speech like this, I would have called them crazy,” Hicks told the crowd. “I wouldn’t say that I am a complete success but I will say that, thanks to the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Life Skills program, I am on a path and I am progressing at a fast pace toward becoming a success.”

The evening’s events, which featured musical entertainment by the Voices of Harmony, a singing group based out of Courtland, concluded with a chorus of “Amazing Grace” rising from more than a hundred voices.

As young and old alike sang the familiar words, a statement made earlier by FRHA Commissioner Rev. Carlton Lowe seemed to take on a special significance:

“We don’t just redevelop properties,” he said. “We develop lives.”