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February 7, 2004

Learning through signing

From: Newark Advocate, OH - Feb 7, 2004

By L.B. WHYDE Advocate Correspondent

NEWARK -- Amy Clendenen of Newark and Patricia Fultz of Zanesville ate their pizza and talked at the same time. Not once were they rude, because they never had to open their mouths.

In fact the room of 30 people was completely silent, as everyone talked with their hands. It is all part of the Silent Pizza Party held the first Friday of every month from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Southeast Community Center of the Deaf.

The purpose of the pizza party is to have hearing people mingle with deaf people. Students of the American sign languages classes at the center requested a time they could meet deaf people and practice their sign language skills.

"I'm talking ASL to open doors to the deaf community," Clendenen said. "As the camp director for the Girl Scout Camp Wakatomika, I would like to be as culturally diverse as possible."

Fultz wanted to learn sign language after a patient at the Genesis Hospital in Zanesville, where she is a nurse, kept signing from his mouth to his cheek. The nurses thought the patient was hungry and kept feeding him, but after finally finding a housekeeper who was also deaf, they learned that the patient wanted to go home.

"In order to better serve the community, I think it is important to learn sign language," Fultz said. "I took a class once where the teacher was hearing. I didn't learn anything. So when I knew sign language was taught by the deaf here, that is why I wanted to come."

Cheryl Jones of Newark watched intently as Fultz and Clendenen tried to sign as fast as she did. There are several hearing people on hand, such as staff interpreter Jenifer Kruzan of New Concord to help with communication. Jones, who was born deaf, is one of the teachers at the center for ASL.

"It is motivating to me as a teacher to meet people interested in sign language," Jones signed, as interpreted by Kruzan. "I even have a dog that understands sign language."

The Southeast Community Center of the Deaf opened this past summer in the Arcade in downtown Newark. Tom Atkins, of Croton, is the director of the center, which services 10 counties, from Licking down to Athens. The main headquarters, Deaf Services Center, is located in Columbus.

"What I've heard is that there are about 300 people in Newark who are deaf," Atkins said through Kruzan. "The population of Licking County is over 100,000 and there is usually 10 percent that are deaf, including people in nursing homes."

The center in Newark offers advocacy services, peer support, ADA technical assistance, information and referral services, a speakers bureau and American Sign Language classes. Interpreters are available seven days a week for all area hospitals, courts, police and numerous other human service providers.

"Before we set up a center here, the deaf were going to different agencies looking for help and were just going in circles," Atkins said.

The Bowers family of Newark, including Sandy and David and their 7-year-old twin daughters Rachel and Hannah, are all talking the sign language classes at the center. They became interested during a vacation on a cruise with 200 deaf people.

"We would watch the interpreter more than the show, the music, the magician or the comedian," Sandy Bowers explained. "Taking this class as a family is really nice."

"It is really interesting the way the people move their hands," Rachel Bowers added. "I want to be a interpreter on a cruise ship when I grow up."

Dianna Nelson of Heath was born deaf, but was taught to read lips and to speak. Before the SCCD opened in Newark, she would help deaf people call for appointments and other daily tasks.

"A long time ago, I never heard of interpreters," Nelson said. "I like interpreters. I was very happy to see the SCCD open here. It is much better for us now."

Grace and Louis Dusenbury of Newark are both deaf. Grace was born deaf, while Louis lost his hearing when he was 5 from measles. The couple is happy to have the SCCD in town, not only for the services they offer, but because they now have the opportunity to get out and mingle.

"Since the center moved here, it has really grown," Grace Dusenbury said. "And I thank the community for that."

The SCCD was first established in Zanesville in 1998. It was relocated to Newark to be more centrally located and because funding had dried up.

With the move to Newark, John Moore, executive director of DSC in Columbus, has found the community to be very response.

"Both the deaf and hearing have been very responsive," Moore signed. "I see a high degree of volunteers and participants in this community, higher than in Columbus. It is a wonderful community. That is why we chose to set up our office here."

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