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Church group to give American Sign Language classes for free

February 15, 2017
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Three Lehigh Acres women, who use American sign language to translate the sermons and the music at Grace International Ministries, are offering to teach others at no charge.

"It is something we enjoy doing," Sharon Moriarty, the group's leader, said.

The women - Moriarty, Whitney Stewart and Terrie Vargas - plan to begin classes on Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. at the church.

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From left, Whitney Stewart, Sharon Moriarty and Terrie Vargas are offering free American sign language classes to those interested. The first class will be held on Feb. 22 at Grace International Ministries, at 3507 Lee Blvd., Suite 103. To sign up or for information, call 369-7900, Ext. 102.

Students do not have to bring any material to the classes, but should be able to repeat gestures that represent English words and use symbols with the sign language.

"It's a beginner's American Sign Language class, and we don't charge for the lessons,"?Moriarty said. "If there are those who want to extend their learning of American sign language, the women will teach the new sign language speakers with advanced work."

Moriarty said the church has had deaf congregates over the years.

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"We usually have a couple each Sunday, and we had had six and seven people,"?she said. "Some of those deaf people come one Sunday and then maybe not again until a few weeks later."

None of the women are aware of any other Lehigh church that provides the sign language service.

"But with such a large population as Lehigh now has, it makes sense that there may be several people who are deaf and they just aren't known in the community," Moriarty said. "If there are no interpreters at churches or schools, they may not know there is a place to attend."

She noted that people may want to take the free classes so they can offer sign language at their own church or club gatherings.

Moriarty has experience personal dealings with the deaf.

"My niece up in Michigan was deaf and she lived with me for a while. I also knew a woman friend who was deaf, so I am quite familiar with communicating with the deaf," she said.

"It's rewarding to be able to translate the language for the deaf," Moriarty added. "It brings them into our world, and as an interpreter, I always enjoy talking to deaf people."

Children are welcome to attend the classes with adult supervision.

Moriarty noted that youth often pick up sign language as fast as adults do. Her own daughter, who learned sign language as a child, works with the deaf.

According to Moriarty, people usually first learn how the letters of the alphabet, then how to spell out words. As they become more proficient, they learn "signs" or shortcuts for common words.

For more details or to take part in the classes, call Lisa Sorensen at 239-369-7900, Ext. 102.

Grace International Ministries is at 3507 Lee Blvd., Suite 103.



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