NOVEMBER NEWSLETTER
John Davis' Selfless Service to 
Mississippians  and Abroad 
Recognized  by Belhaven University

John G. Davis, Jr., Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), received the  Business Success Award as a  2018 Alumni Award Winner for Belhaven University. The Business Success Award is given to a  graduate of the Belhaven School of Business who integrates Christian values and ethics in the marketplace as well as a servant leader committed to excellence and dedication to serving others.
  
John Davis was appointed to the position of Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) by Governor Phil Bryant in January 2016 and confirmed by the Mississippi Senate. Davis leads a staff of more than  4200 and manages an annual budget in excess of $3billion in state and federal funds. In addition, he serves on the Boards of State Workforce Investment (SWIB) Executive Board, Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, U.S. Interstate Commission for Juveniles, State Longitudinal Data Studies (SLDS) Executive Board, State Supreme Court Families First Initiative, and Policy for State Strategies. Read more...
Healthy Teens Fun & Fitness Campaign

Families First for Mississippi is working diligently to promote healthy choices amongst teens, which impacts many of the leading challenges within the state of Mississippi. The vision of the partnership between Families First for Mississippi and Healthy Teens for a better Mississippi is to promote healthy choices across a variety of areas that highly impact the health and future success of youth by providing parents with education and training, motivating teens to set goals and teach teens to choose responsible choices in their every day lives. 

Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi will participate in local community organizations in providing support in bringing awareness to eating well and exercise. Each regional council will participate in a local activity that will be recognized by their regional coordinator. 
Saturday Live Radio Show
Baldwyn, Mississippi 

The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC) is a proud sponsor of the 2nd Saturday Live which is a radio broadcast on WFTA Power 101.9.   The show is open to the public during broadcast at the Claude Gentry Theatre at 110 West Main Street in Baldwyn.  Other sponsors include: Farmers & Merchants Bank and Sherwin-Williams.

Clark Richey, Baldwyn native, is an investor in his home community with ten buildings downtown, including the Claude Gentry Theatre which is currently also in production for a musical production of Christmas music. In addition, Richey's investment in Baldwyn's downtown renovation includes a restaurant, an event venue hall, and retail shops. 

Entertainment, sports news, regional happenings and personalities are all part of the radio show lineup. Among those on a November broadcast was Johnie E. Cooks, of the Johnie E. Cooks Foundation which is a partner of Families First for Mississippi.

The Johnie E. Cooks Foundation (JEC) is a nonprofit organization committed to supporting more than 1000 at risk youth in the Oktibbeha county area that are in need of programs activities and services. Many life skills services are available through the (JEC) Foundation, including tutoring, mentoring, day camps, ACT prep, college prep, job readiness and interviewing skills.  The Johnie E. Cooks Foundation was created to bridge the gap between our community's youth by outreach and mentorship and reflects one of Families First pillars: Youth Development.

On hand for this event was Family Resource Center of North Mississippi Executive Director, Mrs. Christi Webb.  Webb is a Baldwyn resident.  She is also the Co-Director of Families First for Mississippi, a state-wide program that not only works with youth but also provide programs in literacy, education, workforce, addiction, food insecurity, homelessness prevention, "Beds for Kids" through the Faith-based initiative and many others.
Clarksdale Families First for Mississippi Partners with MEMA 4Kids

Disasters happen. The results can be tragic if not prepared. The Clarksdale Family Resource Center/Families First for Mississippi team joined Friars Point Elementary School to educate students, teachers and other staff about disaster preparedness.

Families First for Mississippi partners with MEMA 4Kids to provide this education.  The students, teachers and staff were provided a book entitled: "Disaster Preparedness: A Child's Journey in Mississippi" which included an Award of Excellence Certificate. 

Homeless Prevention in Tupelo 

Families First for Mississippi/ Family Resource Center is partnering with Lee Acres Church of Christ to provide space heaters for families with under-heated housing.The goal is to partner with community members like Lee Acres Church of Christ to help Families First for Mississippi clients during this time of the year. 

Holiday Food Drive
in Desoto County 

The Family Resource Center/Families First for Mississippi of DeSoto County hosted multiple food drives during the month of November to benefit local families in need. The  DeSoto campuses teamed up with a local Kroger Co. grocery store to set up a table and hand out detailed flyers about the food drive. Staff were accepting both food and monetary donations.

In total, 45 families were given large boxes of non-perishable items and the option to pick up a turkey the week of Thanksgiving.          

Through platforms such as social media, Chamber of Commerce websites, email and telephone calls, the DeSoto staff members reached a wide variety of donors for the drive.  These donors include: DeSoto Central Middle School's Volleyball team, State Farm, Horn Lake Middle School Student Council, First Commercial Bank, Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), DeSoto County Health Departments and various community members.

"Feedback from grateful families was overwhelming and heartwarming," said Regional Coordinator Christi McCafferty.  "Not only did this allow us to provide Thanksgiving meals for these families, it also allowed us to assess the families for other needs, hooking them in to other Families First Resource Center and community-based services. It was a great success."

Corinth: Senior Nutrition

Erika Jones, working from the Families First for Mississippi Tupelo campus, takes her classroom to the seniors in Tinin Terrace Apartments in Corinth.  During November, she focused on how balanced nutrition can impact health while also supporting good mental and emotional well-being.  She structured the class to provide stimulating social interaction and positive networking among the residents there.

Under the umbrella of the Housing Authority in the City of Corinth, Erika was able to set monthly gatherings for the seniors in residence at Tinin Terrace Apartments.  The first gathering was not only to share the scope of Families First for Mississippi services but to also survey the interest of the residents.  Since then, she has structured each class in one of the interest areas discovered through the survey.  In addition, social activities are planned as part of the experience at each of the gatherings to allow interaction among the residents and foster positive steps towards emotional well-being in the activities at each gathering.  

Tishomingo County: Thanksgiving Baskets 

Field Educator, Tonya McAnally at the Harvest Festival in Tishomingo Manor Nursing Facility says, "We had a blast. It was open to the residence families and public."

The Families First for Mississippi team hosted a toss football game and gave out candy and prizes.    This was an event for the positive youth development students to volunteer their time and work within their community. There was also volunteers from the EAGLE Home School group.

The United Steel Workers Local 978, United Steel Workers Local 9923 and Packaging Corporation of America employees put together Thanksgiving baskets to include everything for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, plus a turkey for families in Tishomingo County.

Mississippi Radio Group & Disney on Ice 
Coat Drive for United Way in Tupelo

Mississippi Radio Group & Disney on Ice are hosting a coat drive for United Way on December 6. We need volunteers to come to the United Way office on December 7 to help unload and sort the donations. Last year, they had about 1,000 coats donated! Coats will then be distributed to nonprofits, schools, churches, and others who can give them to those in need. On Friday, December 7th at the CREATE Boardroom at 213 West Main Street, Tupelo:

  • from 9 am-noon, 10-12 agency staff/volunteers are needed to unload and sort the coats
  • from 1-4 pm, agencies, schools and other organizations can come and pickup whatever coats are needed

A Night for a Hand Up Grant 
in Lee County

CREATE Foundation was founded on the principle of giving and giving a hand up is what they are all about.  Started in 1972 by Publisher George and Ms. Anna McLean, the core foundation is supported through dividends from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal as was established by the McLean's on their deaths.  Since those beginning, CREATE Foundation endows, grants or provided administrative support for non-profits organizations in several Northeast Mississippi Counties.

November 19th, at the BancorpSouth Arena, CREATE Foundation hosted "A Night for a Hand Up" event to award $20,000 in grants to non-profit applicants serving the Lee County/Tupelo area.  Nineteen organizations were present to make a two-minute presentation to expose local needs and their efforts to serve these needs.  The CREATE Foundation team voted on those presenting and also allowed up to ten votes per organization team (had to be present to vote).

The Family Resource Center with its hallmark division of Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) was among the non-profits presenting.  Representing the Faith-based branch of Families First for Mississippi was Stanley Huddleston, who serves as the coordinator for this branch and is also pastor of Mount Olive Baptist Church in the Baldwyn area.  He was applying for a portion of the grant money to support the "Beds for Kids" ministry that has provided 120 beds for children in the area, many of whom have never had a bed of their own before.

His request was heart-warming and also heart-wrenching, as was those that came from the other eighteen representatives.  Regardless of the targeted service from each of these to better the families in this area, what was evident is that the needs in the Lee County region are great and compounded.

The four large grants were for $10,000, $5,000 and two $2,500 awards.  All who applied would receive $250 if they were not awarded one of the larger grants.   Families First for Mississippi was one of the $250 recipients but was a big winner in that they met and networked with eighteen other organizations that are all about giving.

November is celebrated across this great country with a day set aside for 
Thanksgiving. The staff of Families First for Mississippi present at the CREATE foundation "A Night for a Hand UP" event was in agreement that regardless of the amount awarded to Families First, all were giving thanks for the endowments made by CREATE Foundation to the non-profits dedicated to giving to others. 
Congratulations to:
$2500-Andy Hewitt-Helping Hands Foundation
$2500-Meals on Wheels
$5000-CATCH Kids
$10000-Habitat for Humanity
Happy Thanksgiving!
Veteran's Day in  Indianola 

Ben Gaston, Regional Coordinator for Families First for Mississippi in Indianola, Mississippi, is one of this country's unsung heroes.  He served the United States of America for two years in the Army and forty years in the Mississippi National Guard.  His service includes service in the Fourth Infantry Division and Armor Branch in the Mississippi National Guard with multiple leadership positions, culminating his career as the Assistant Adjutant General of Mississippi.  He retired in 2012 as a Major General. 

Gaston served in Vietnam and Cambodia while in the Army and in numerous locations while with the Mississippi National Guard. During those early years, there were some challenging times.  "I was in an Infantry unit and we lost soldiers every week; unfortunately, in the Vietnam era there were no memorial services held for soldiers that were killed in the line of duty.  There was no time to grieve or pay respects due to constant mission assignments.  Each individual soldier had to deal with it in their own personal way.  Most of the Veterans that I know feel like I do; we had a job to do and we did it.  The recognition is nice but, in my case, it is not necessary, I did it because I felt like it was the right thing to do at the time.  There are many veterans that enjoy the comradery at the various events and there are others that don't want to be reminded of their experiences.  Keep in mind that the homecoming experience for veterans of the Vietnam conflict was entirely different than the homecomings of the soldiers since that time." 

Families First for Mississippi is proud to offer this long overdue honor to one of their own unsung heroes and would formally like to express gratitude to Ben Gaston, as well as the thousands like him, that were not recognized as honorable protectors of the freedoms enjoyed in this country.

Greenwood Coalition Meeting  

Jonathan Grantham, Clinical Services Coordinator for Life Help Region 6 Mental Health and Denton House Chemical Dependency Center, is photographed speaking at the Greenwood Center Quarterly Coalition Meeting as a featured partner and guest presenter. Families First for Mississippi Greenwood center recently partnered with Life Help and Denton House to expand its newly added Youth and Adult Addiction Programs on a local level in the Delta area.

Partnership with Musee Baths 

Families First for Mississippi is partnering with  Musee Bath,  teaching classes to some of their employees. The classes are to help with life and work stresses and learning how to balance it all. Be sure to watch this video and check out some of their wonderful products!   The Muse Video

Vicksburg Partners with 
River City Rescue Mission

Families First for Mississippi-Vicksburg center is very fortunate to partner with  River City Rescue Mission. The men come to our Vicksburg Families First Resource center every Monday night. We offer a range of support from helping them obtain vital records such as birth certificates, social security cards and driver licenses. We also build resumes, prepare them for interviews and line them up for job fairs and other employment opportunities. Lastly, we teach various classes on life skills to include anger management. 

"We send them off with  granola bars and bananas and you should see the smile on their faces!" says Vicksburg Center Coordinator, Virginia Campbell. 

Established on October 5th, 1994, River City Rescue Mission has been here to answer the call and meet the needs, whether it's giving a man a new direction and a fresh start, or providing a family with specific needs to help them maintain their household. 

Brookhaven Partners with Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition 

The Brookhaven Families First staff partners with  Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalitions of Lincoln and Copiah Counties. They do everything from Lunch & Learn events to educating the youth on the effects of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco use. 

When we asked Mrs. Mieshia Smith, Project Director for MS Tobacco Free Coalition how she felt about the partnership with Families First this is what she said. 

"Working in the community you meet many people. There are many organizations aroun d that provide services to the community, but one community partner shines through as a leader. The Families First partnership with Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Copiah and Lincoln counties has been a great success. This partnership's success comes from both organizations' drive to succeed. We support each other in our efforts to work in the community. We have teamed up to create new awareness and educational opportunities that were not in place already. The MTFC of Copiah and Lincoln has hosted events that Families First partnership has supported. The MTFC of Copiah and Lincoln has also supported events that Families First has hosted. The community-based work that we do requires partnerships and it is very productive to have a community partner that is resourceful, supportive, and reliable. I have enjoyed working with you Terra and I look forward to working with you in the future!"

Families First Partners with the 
River City Rescue Mission in Vicksburg

Our  Vicksburg office works closely with the men of River City Rescue Mission on Monday nights at the  Vicksburg Resource Center.  Through our pillars, they identify the men's needs and work individually to give them as much support as possible.

They discovered one gentleman was an artist; so they supplied him with paints and canvases to help him rediscover his artistic abilities.

Trainer, Michelle Johnson is pictured below with the men of River City Rescue Mission.


Families First & The Economic Development Foundation in Crystal Springs

Crystal Springs Families First Center Coordinator, Kimberly Funchess, supported De'Keither Stamps, Mac Epps, and other social and civic organizations at Poindexter Park Tuesday, November 20th. This is the fifth annual year Mr. Stamps and Mr. Epps organized groups to camp out overnight with the homeless to raise awareness about homelessness in Mississippi.

Families First Jackson Center Partners with the Juanita Sims Doty Foundation

"The JSD Foundation is pleased to partner with Families First for Mississippi to continue the mutual goals of Families First and our Foundation: to impact the whole family and to build communities" says Juanita Sims Doty. One of the major program initiatives of the JSD Foundation is the A-TEAAM: Ambassadors of the Evers Academy for African-American Males. The A-TEAAM is a leadership and character development program serving middle school males of color. In addition to the  mentoring program for the young males, family engagement is an integral part of this initiative. Each Ambassador pledges to honor the life and live the legacy of slain civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, as he is mentored in one-on-one, group and peer settings by a "village" of 1-2 mentors. Over the past 5 years, mentors have been provided for over 500 males.

The collaboration between the Juanita Sims Doty Foundation (JSDF) and the Medgar & Myrlie Evers Institute impacts the Ambassadors by enabling them to create a parallel with historical references and their lived experiences to better understand, change, and promote positive behavior and personal development. The A-TEAAM inspires these young males to write their own narratives and overcome inevitable challenges. 

Karla McCullough, Executive Director of the JSD Foundation, who also manages the evaluation of the program is excited about this partnership. Karla says...."Through the collaboration with Families First for Mississippi, the JSD Foundation has been able to develop an on-line database that provides further evidence of the program's impact based on evaluation measures completed by the Ambassadors, mentors, parents, and teachers. This evidence helps to document the success of the program."

The JSD Foundation also works in collaboration with Mr. Charlie Smith, Community Liaison for Families First. Through this partnership, this team has been able to train Resource Center Directors and Community Liaisons to work more effectively with community partners, utilizing what Charlie calls the "4-C Approach": Community Engagement, Collaboration, Capacity, and Culture.  

In addition to working with Families First with the Community Coalitions, Juanita and Karla have also enjoyed working with Families First on implementing Sports Camps in Canton, Yazoo City and at Jackson State University. They have enjoyed assisting Families First in connecting with the Faith-based community across the state of Mississippi. As Juanita continues to say...."It was surely through Divine intervention that this partnership was developed."

Outstanding Volunteerism Awarded to Families First for Mississippi - Hattiesburg 

Our youth is our future while being the building blocks of our nation. It is important we invest in our youth today, in order for them to be leaders tomorrow. 
 
Families First for Mississippi - Hattiesburg was awarded with the Outstanding Volunteerism to the Students and Staff of Hattiesburg Public School District (HPSD).

HPSD mission is "Today's Learners, Tomorrow's Leaders." Families First for Mississippi believes in engaging our youth in intentional, productive, and constructive ways, while recognizing and enhancing their strengths.
 
The Families First Resource Center in Hattiesburg partners with Hattiesburg Public School District to host youth development classes that continues to empower our youth. The trainers have taught the students  bullying prevention, importance of good grades, and the 4-B's (Be Respectful, Be Ready to Learn, Be Safe, Be Responsible). 
 
Elisha Barnes-Booth, Hattiesburg Center Coordinator, says "We're very honored to receive this award as we continue to partner with HPSD to equipment our youth with leadership skills, communication skills, and critical thinking."

Families First for Mississippi Partners with Gulf Coast Christian Women's Job Corp

Diane Bennett is the Executive Director and Site Coordinator for Gulf Coast Christian Women's Job Corp, a faith-based ministry, which means everything they do and speak on is based on scripture.

Christian Women's Job Corp was first established in 2010 with the mission to "encourage women to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ, to provide hope, and to move them toward self-sufficiency by providing education, mentoring, and strength-based skills."

CWJC focuses on different  "modules" for women to participate in. These modules include Job skills, Money Management, Life Skills, and Communication. Each participant much complete 12 consistent weeks of classes to obtain a graduation certificate. That certificate opens the door to receive letters of recommendations, referrals for jobs, letters to judges, probation officers, attend court dates, and references from their personal mentors Mrs. Diane has built a rapport with local businesses and they admire all her hard work and dedication to these women that if they complete her program they will be considered a candidate to be re-hired.

"Many women come out of rehab or incarceration and have little to nothing so how can you get a place to live if you don't have a job and how do you get a job without a place to live." It just becomes a vicious cycle that keeps repeating itself. That is where Mrs. Diane has high hopes in opening a "transformational home" to help these women get stable and back on their feet. These women must enroll in the required programs CWJC has to offer and complete them in a satisfactory manner.
  
Housing is temporary, about 6-9 months, but in that amount of times they are given the tools, support, and guidance to be self-sufficient. Mrs. Diane believes the "true success story" is the women's relationship with Jesus Christ. "I firmly believe in my heart that God has led me here to help women find jobs and places to live."

A Message from the Co-Executive Directors of Families First for Mississippi!

"Our main goal for Families First for Mississippi is to impact the entire family by connecting the dots between all of the Mississippi family program services. Together we can strengthen families in Mississippi."