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Ceramics teachers#039; students become family

SYBENE -- After 18 years of volunteering, Sylvesta Hollback's ceramics class has become much more than just a hobby for her and her students.

Instead of having 22 students, she says she has an extended family with whom she shares both good times and bad.

"The class is relaxing to me and keeps me going," she said. "This is my second family. They are good to me and I try to be good to them."

After taking classes on her own for 17 years, Hollback has voluntarily taught ceramics every Tuesday and Thursday since the Senior Center opened in 1984 and never asked for a dime.

The 79-year-old is from Ironton but has lived in South Point since 1938. Of course, it has been the students that have kept her doing it, she said.

"I truly enjoy it and I have got the best bunch of girls in Lawrence County," she said.

Shelves lined with completed projects fill the room. Students work diligently on ceramic animals, figurines, statues and more.

Margaret Winkler of South Point has been a student of Sylvesta's for 14 years.

Numerous heart attacks and health problems can not keep her away from coming back to see the lady that she says is much more of a friend than an instructor.

"She is a great teacher and great person all the way around," Winkler said. "We all love her."

Darlene Green, site coordinator for the senior center, said she is not sure what they would do without Sylvesta because she really does a lot more than just teach the class.

"The whole ceramics class is very important to all the seniors here," she said. "I did volunteer work and I know all the work that Sylvesta does to get things ready. We really appreciate Sylvesta going the extra mile for us."

Marilyn Grant Howard, director of operations for the Greater Lawrence County Community Action Organization, said that Sylvesta and her husband Ernest are invaluable.

"Anytime we need a volunteer she is ready to assist no matter what it is," she said. "She is just that type of individual. She is a true community person and her husband is always right there behind her."

During the past three years, the Hollbacks have also maintained the memorial garden that recognizes 53 memorials for seniors who attended the center who have passed away.

For Sylvesta, the toughest part is seeing students suffer health problems. She said they miss many of their friends who can no longer come.

"We have had our sicknesses here lately," she said. "It has been heartbreaking. We try to finish what they were working on and take it to them."