Service to Others Brings Meaning to the Christmas Season

The holiday season stirs memories of festive family gatherings, meaningful Christmas celebrations and gifts wrapped in tinsel. Christmas music fills the air and holiday parties abound while friends and family gather together for fellowship and favorite holiday meals. During the holiday season and behind the twinkling Christmas lights and days filled with merrymaking and joy, suffering is amplified. Suffering has many faces and the burdens of life that people shoulder seem almost unbearable during a season that is known for joy and happiness.
Imagine walking the streets with no place to call home, judged wrongly by those in cars passing by, regarded simply as homeless and that "only reckless decisions must have brought on this fate."
As families gather for the holidays in homes of the wealthy and poor alike, there are those silently suffering from an addiction. They wonder how to find hope from the suffocating grip of their addiction without feeling embarrassed to let down those they love.
As Christmas shoppers fill stores, there are mothers and fathers who do not have enough money to feed their precious families or have money left over for presents for their little ones. The emotional anguish as they think about their children on Christmas morning, coupled with the physical exhaustion of working long and late hours, is a heavy burden to bear.
The homebound and those in nursing homes sit alone in deafening silence in rooms that only magnify their loneliness as they think of days gone by when holidays were celebrated in the company of those they love.
Suffering truly comes in seasons, just as the Christmas season greets us every year. No one knows when they will find themselves in a season of suffering; and difficult days are more profound as the world around is filled with the Christmas spirit. Families First for Mississippi desires to provide tangible ways to ease suffering and offer hope and healing during the Christmas season. For the month of December, "Giving Back" is the unified effort of Families First for Mississippi with a mission to use resources and volunteer opportunities to impact multi-generational Mississippians across the state. Read more...
Healthy Teens Giving Back Campaign 

Families First for Mississippi is working diligently to promote healthy choices 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 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. 

As the holidays approach, Healthy Teens gave back to the community through a community service project. The teens will be given freedom to come up with a need in their community and fulfill that need. 
Our Healthy Teens Council members from the north region have begun the month of December by giving back. These teens helped serve at their local Salvation Army, and then got together to celebrate the upcoming Christmas holiday. 

Also, in the month of December, Families First honored our Healthy Teens State Council members for all of their hard work during the first semester of the school year. Christmas parties were hosted for each region. The parties were fun and festive event with food, fellowship and activities. During this time, we want the Healthy Teens Council discussed their progress and give feedback on their year. 
Our Healthy Teens Council members from our central region had a great Christmas party with fun, food, fellowship, and upcoming planning for the new year!
2nd Annual Coat Drive in Tupelo 

Disney on Ice and Mississippi Radio Group sponsored the second annual coat drive Thursday, December 6, 2018 through Friday, December 7, 2018. There were 275 coats donated this year and a total of 300 tickets were given away to the Disney on Ice show at  Bancorpsouth arena in exchange. United Way volunteered as the coat recipients and with the help of Families First Resource center staff, all of the coats were organized into sizes in the C.R.E.A.T.E. Foundation Board room. "All of our partner agencies and local school districts are welcome to come get what they need because everything has to be gone today", said Robin McKinney, United Way Communications Director. The remaining coats will be given to the Tupelo Salvation Army. When asked about third drive next year, the United Way staff members smiled and said, "hopefully there will be because there is such a big need in this area".
Southaven Soldier Project  

The Family First Resource center in Southaven partnered with Mid-South Project Package to sponsor soldiers from our local area who are overseas this holiday season. The founder and coordinator for Mid-South Project Package is Rickey Pope, who serves for 30 years in the U.S. Army, and knows firsthand the need for this service.  "I noticed that some of our soldiers didn't have much contact with their families," Pope said in a phone interview. "The families couldn't afford to send them packages, and because of this, they wouldn't get the items that they really needed."  According to Pope, 100 percent of donations go directly to the troops, either in boxes or to pay for postage. Staff from the Southaven Campus went to Mid-South Project Package's warehouse to help separate donations and pack boxes in preparation for that month's shipment.  While staff were at the warehouse, they separated perishable goods from non-perishable goods and filled at least 50 boxes with both types of items.

Danielle Steele, a social work intern for the Southaven center, said that one of her favorite parts of helping with the packaging was seeing all the effort people were putting into the boxes.  "It was nice to see gifts coming from every part of DeSoto County," Steele said. "And the effort the children put into making the packages special, with lovely notes to the troops, was absolutely precious.
Pictured is Families First Resource Center staff in Southaven collecting items for the soldiers 
Celebrating Literacy in Clarksdale  

At the end of the year celebration was held at the Sunshine Baptist Church on December 6th. In the Little Sunshine Daycare Storytime Literacy program, the final story was provided by Carolyn Quinn, Regional Coordinator for Families First for Mississippi. The children were aged two and three years old. At the end of the story, the children received gift bags of coloring books, crayons, a teddy bears (musical prayer), fruit chew, juice, colorful wrist bands along with other items. 
Fulton Christmas Parade   

Buddy Collins, Regional Coordinator for Families First Resource Center  and his crew of eager helpers get ready to join the town in high spirits and warm hearts. The helpers were able to ride with Buddy during the parade, waving and greeting friends and neighbors.  
Pictured is Buddy Collins, Regional Coordinator for Families First for Mississippi in Fulton
Hernando Child Safety For the Holidays  

The Families First Resource Center in DeSoto county have specifically trained and certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians that can teach caregivers how to ensure their child stays safe in and around the car! We are very excited to announce that the Hernando and Southaven campuses just received over 150 new car seats through a partnership with the Mississippi Department of Health that are ready to be shared with families in need. All families are required to take a child safety course in conjunction with receiving the new car seat and to participate in learning the correct installation and fit for their child.
Pictured is Family Resource Center staff member in the Desoto County 
Philadelphia Coaltion Gathering  

Periodically, each Families First Resource center will host a Coalition gathering to bring philanthropic-minded local citizens who are eager to give back to their community. Representatives from each group shares their efforts and plans are discussed on how to collaborate, so that they can provide greater services by working to expand their objectives and to not duplicate.  The point is to provide a large and diverse array of community services.  The Coalition members assess how they can be of benefit to the greatest number of those who need a gift or a hand up.  Among the many services provided by Families First Resource centers are a Food Pantry that provides not only food during the year-end holidays, but also make these emergency provisions on a daily basis.  David Vowell of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Development Partnership reached into his personal wallet and contributed $100 so that this season will be able to provide the gift of food to some deserving families.
Pictured is Families First Resource center staff and the Chamber of Commerce in Philadelphia 
Give the Gift of Safe Travel in Columbus  

The Families First Resource Center in Columbus is partnering with the local Fire Department to "give the gift of safe t ravel  for children". Families First Resource center in  Columbus is partnering with the Columbus Fire Department to provide education to all Families First clients. The clients are instructed about how to buckle their children safely into their car seats. 
Pictured is Families First clients and the Columbus Fire Department
Bringing Families Together 
This Holiday Season In Tupelo

Families First for Mississippi through support from the Toyota Learning Center brings families together to learn to optimize family and community relations.  On December 11th, Families First brought local classes together for a "Polar Express" holiday event.   Parents and children were treated to dinner and the "Polar Express" movie while enjoying dinner and sweet treats.  After the movie, the real treat showed up dressed in red and sporting a long white beard.  Santa and Santa's helper. Santa read stories to the children and invited them to his lap to talk about wish lists, while Santa's helper passed out gifts to each child.  Meantime, Family Resource Center Elves (aka Field Educators) manned craft stations where the children could make tree ornaments or other fun activities related to the holiday season. The program was designed to educate families about healthy and economical ways to have fun with the seasonal decorating and gift giving, while sharing the experience in meaningful ways with all the family members.  The activity events are ongoing all year, but especially joyful during the year end focus on giving back and sharing.
Pictured is the Families First Resource Center staff and guest with Santa 
A Child's Christmas Extravaganza 
in Tishomingo

A Child's Christmas Extravaganza is the best way to describe the events at Iuka Library on Dec. 6, 2018. Children were running everywhere with parents on every corner. ''Twas the night before Christmas" was read aloud with tiny attentive ears. Christmas carols were sung with children circled around Mrs. Claus. Santa arrived and eyes twinkled with heartfelt wishes.  Faces were painted, blocks were stacked and scavenger hunts had children running in every direction. This event was a heartwarming gathering where children and adults could spend time bonding over Christmas fun. Children, parents, grandparents, and friends left the Iuka library with bags filled with game winning prizes, books given by Santa's elves, candy canes, and door prize gifts. Camera flashes were halted and the commotion came to a close as sleepy kids were buckled into their cars to head home. This is one night that many will always remember and a tradition that many families hope to have for years to come.   A special thank you goes to our Positive Youth Development students, who volunteered their time to serve their community. Family Resource Center-Families First is so proud that several parents were able to attend as a PACT time event with their children. These are happy memories that will last a lifetime.
Pictured is Family Resource Center-Families First staff member with Santa and Mrs. Claus
"Books & Bears" Holiday Program at Ole Miss

The Oxford Families First Resource center contributed to the annual "Books and Bears" holiday program at Ole Miss. Toys, books, and stuffed animals were collected by Family Resource center Oxford staff, coordinated by Hallie Goodson and Hunter Grissom. The results of the effort were taken to the campus by staff members Tommy Parker and Dr. Debra Moore.  The story written by Edwin Smith of University of Mississippi News about Books and Bears. 
Pictured is Oxford Family Resource Center-Families First staff volunteering their time at University of Mississippi 
Delivering Toys to the Greenwood Leflore Hospital Pediatrics 

Giving back is one of the most important things you can do to support the community and help others overcome barriers!  Greenwood Families First staff enjoyed delivering toy donations to the Greenwood Leflore Hospital Pediatrics wing this month as part of their "Giving Back" campaign for the holidays. Families First continues to partner with other organizations this holiday season.  Find out how you can get involved in your local community. For more information on how you can give back in your community, contact Together we can strengthen Families in Mississippi.
Pictured is Families First Resource center staff members donated items to the Leflore Hospital Pediatrics 
"Champion in Recovery" at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison

Families First for Mississippi's Addiction Education Director, John Owen was recognized as a "Champion in Recovery" at Broadmoor Baptist Church. John Owen selflessly exemplifies the work of an advocate and champion for over 35 years to those suffering from addiction to lead them on a road of healing and recovery. John has worked simultaneously with Families First for Mississippi as Addiction Education Director and Owner/Clinical Director of Recovery Consultations and strives to be a beacon of hope for those Mississippians who feel hopelessly clinched in the cycle of addiction with educational and recovery resources to circumvent the devastating drug overdoses in Mississippi.
Pictured is Addiction Education Director, John Owen and family member
Donating at the Vicksburg Angel Tree in Vicksburg Community Action Agency  

Families First for Mississippi this holiday season plans to give back by joining volunteer groups, partnering with other non-profit organizations, state agencies, and bringing awareness to help those in need and contribute to the common good during this holiday season. You can give back in so many different ways. No matter how you do it, giving back to your community will impact many people's lives. Even the smallest good deed can ignite change and positively impact the community by providing a renewed sense of hope. 
Families First Resource Center Coordinator, Virginia Campbell is busy dropping off gifts for the Angel Tree at The  Warren Washington Issaquena Community Action Agency. 
Promoting Kindness and Gratefulness 
at the Jefferson County Elementary School in Natchez 
Families First Resource Center-Natchez staff spent the day at Jefferson County Elementary School promoting kindness and gratefulness. The Families First staff helped students write letters to Santa and color pictures to decorate the school.
Pictured below is  Natchez  Families First staff members DeLeslie Bernard, Field Educator and Zadier Thomas, Field Educator
The Joy of Giving for the Holidays! 
in Crystal Springs 
Families First Resource Center in Crystal Springs volunteered with local community organizations to box up food and distribute to families in need this holiday season. There were over 150 people through the doors at the local fire station. For more information about how you can get involved this holiday season, contact Impacting The Whole Community!
Pictured above is Crystal Springs  Families First staff member Mrs. Kimberly Funchess. 
Gateway Rescue Mission in Jackson

Families First Resource Center in Jackson volunteered at  Gateway Rescue Mission . The staff served dinner to two men's homeless shelters. Gateway's kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, 365 days a year. Volunteers are welcome to sign up to serve during either our lunch or dinner feedings.  #GivingBack #ImpactingTheWholeCommunity
Families First volunteers include: Rick Cox, Pam Barham, Christy Bridges, Susan Davis, Alyssa Dillon along with other volunteers in the community 
Partnering with Love's Kitchen of Meridian

Families First for Mississippi staff served food at Love's Kitchen of Meridian on Tuesday. They met the guest with a warm smile while serving them spaghetti and greens beans.

"Judge Billy Neville founded L.O.V.E.'s Kitchen and charged that no person who entered our door for a meal would be refused based on his or her circumstances. He felt that even people who had jobs could have financial difficulties, such as medical expenses, which would limit their ability to purchase food between pay periods. It is on this premise that we built this service to feed the hungry. L.O.V.E.'s Kitchen has been in operation since the 1980s and is supported by businesses, churches and individuals in our community."
Pictured below is Field Educator, Tonya Thomas, Loves Kitchen Manager Takoqiua, Center Coordinator Gretchen Luvene
Toy Drive in Hattiesburg

Families First Resource Center in Hattiesburg partnered with The Nobles Foundation for the holiday season to host a toy drive for the Homes of Hope for Children. The Homes of Hope for Children's mission is to serve children in crisis throughout Mississippi by providing strong Christian homes to every child that lives there.
A Families First staff members in the Hattiesburg office and their significant others provided Christmas for 24 kids at the home to provide each child a toy from their wish list. On Saturday, December 22, at the 2018 Hometown Heroes, each child from Homes of Hope for Children will get to open their own present. 
Elisha Barnes-Booth, Hattiesburg Center Coordinator, said "G iving back begins with an attitude of gratitude, we live in a country where we are blessed with opportunity to have and give on different levels, whether that is a smile, a hug, toys or clothing."
"In honor of the giving season and celebrating Jesus birthday, it was a blessing in itself to be able to provide each child a toy from their wish list. We had fun being able to hand pick each toy for each child, and we can't wait to see their face expression on Saturday" said a couple who participated in the event.  
The Hattiesburg center also collected general toys to be able to giveaway to other families in need within the community.  

Tis The Season To Be Jolly 
in Moss Point
Families First Resource Center in Jackson and George counties provided merriment, cheer, and refreshments for  We Care Hospice in Moss Point.  
Families First Resource Center in Moss Point staff are pictured above with Kelvin Bolden, Chaplain.
Ringing The Bell This Holiday Season
in Gulfport/Biloxi 
Families First for Mississippi Biloxi/Gulfport staff rang the bell for The Salvation Army at the Walmart Marketplace on Highway 49 in Gulfport. The field instructors and coordinators spent the day in fellowship with community neighbors while sharing the joys of this holiday season.
Families First Resource Center Biloxi/Gulfport staff ringing the bell.