Watch out! United Way of NCM is on a Full, Fit, & Literate Mission for 2019!

With every new year, many continue with a fresh start. For some, reflections can be made to understand how far we have come to improve the lives of ourselves, but most importantly, how we champion others to see the growing issues surrounding our community. United Way of North Central Mississippi has done all of this in the past year, and more. Each day, United Way of North Central Mississippi is striving to better the four counties of Webster, Choctaw, Oktibbeha, and Winston by making sure we recognize the issues in our neighborhood. By helping our neighbors- friends, family, even acquaintances- and encouraging them to be strong neighbors for an even stronger community, we can create a stable, vibrant community in which every member is “full, fit, and literate.” In 2018, United Way through numerous events, grants, supported community agencies and community involvement that each citizen of the four county region understood what it meant to become a stronger neighbor, to “cause an effect” of generosity for our community’s social needs.

How has United Way caused an effect in the last year? Each member of our communities can be sure that becoming “full, fit, and literate” is a reachable goal for those who are lacking the building blocks to achieving socioeconomic success. Our United We Feed program, for example, showcased one of our building blocks to breaking the poverty barrier in our local counties. The United We Feed program exemplified community involvement by collecting donated foods for many food pantries and food programs throughout the surrounding counties. Our goal of 15 tons was exceeded for a total of 18 tons collected. Community involvement has also been essential to achieving our goals in addressing poverty. In the month of November, United Way of NCM benefitted from the Jive Turkey Jam, a musical jam session in which food was collected for the United We Feed program, the Winston County Rotary Club’s Food Drive, the Choctaw County’s St. Andrew’s Society Sweet Potato Harvest Pick and Chick-Fil-A’s Buy a Cup, Give A Cup Soup Drive. The City of Starkville’s Park and Recreation’s Hail-o-ween Event was attended by United Way and incorporated United We Feed’s program, as well.

To be “fit” is a goal most people today strive to become. For us, it is addressing mental and physical health. Our Run United 5K has emphasized the importance of physical activity and witnessed participation from local and out-of-sate runners. To address mental health, we have programs that assist residents in attaining stronger literacy skills. The United We Read event promotes reading at every age, with neighbor donating books to be redistributed within the four counties through a series of book giveaways and partnerships with local libraries and community-based reading programs. With the participation and generosity of many, more than 5000 books have been collected, and an estimated 4800 books have been distributed free –of- charge to children and adults encouraging reading across the lifespan..

United Way of NCM assisted in establishing the Laundry Love Ladies Library at the low- income facility of Brooksville Garden Apartments, in which more than 800 books were donated

for the growth of education and early-age reading for children. United Way of NCM has also donated books to the Choctaw County summer program READ lead by Mattie McDaniel.

Additional fundraising programs enabled United Way of NCM to target our primary focus areas: health, income, and literacy. The 2018 City Wide Tailgate in Starkville has increased business participation by allowing businesses to sponsor the event with 23 tailgate sites and 44 participants for the community of Starkville to enjoy. New to the City Wide Tailgate in 2018 was the creation of Retaliators’ Delight. The new addition, ultimately a success, has 14 retailers registered for the 2019 City Wide Tailgate. Our Double the Love Dinner was a unique and successful fundraising initiative that supported the 15 organizations serviced by United Way of NCM in our 4 counties.

United Way of NCM also sought support or regional and national corporations to address community needs. During fall of 2018, the “Food Service and Source for Choctaw and Webster Counties’ Families and Homebound Senior Citizens” proposal was awarded in the amount of $1,500 by Entergy Corporation, and will be used to help address the nutritional needs of senior citizens through the Area Agency on Aging. A $3,000 grant, awarded by Dollar General, will be used to support tutoring program for homeless youth in Starkville who receive services through Project Help.

It is with our community partnerships, assistance of grants and contributions and the success of our multifunctional programs that United Way of NCM t has come this far. Furthermore, without the help of our board members, whose visions have paved a way into creating a better and brighter community we could not progress. With every year, changes are made, as with the new board members who have joined the diverse board of our United Way agency. This year, business owner of No Sky Solutions Paul Luckett will be serving as the United Way of NCM President, and Dr. Brittany D. Oliver, Assistant Professor Health Promotion at MSU will serve as Vice-President, Campaign Chair.

Angella Baker, former president of United Way of NCM, states how United Way will make a deep impact over the course of 2019:

“I am thrilled that the board improved publicity, applied for more grants, had a successful food, book drive, as well as a successful fundraising dinner… with the leadership of Paul Luckett and Dr. Brittney Oliver, I have no doubt the board will make even more great strides in 2019.”

Paul Luckett states what he sees as the core belief for United Way of NCM and what the organization is all about: “My vision for 2019 is "bringing the community together for good"…

United Way is, first and foremost, a community organization. It's a hub for neighbors to come together, identify under-served areas in our community and address them together.”

High steps have been taken to ensure that 2018 was a year of multiple successes and pathways to create support programs and services to ensure that every citizen from every walk of life that United Way is there to create an impact. With every new year comes new opportunities, and for United Way of NCM, new events for the community.

This year, starting on January 28th , we have our Frostbite Participant’s Swag Bag Stuffing at Renasant, where volunteers can fill a “swag bag” with goodies at Renasant Bank. February, we have our Frostbite Run benefitting United Way and Souper Bowl, a fun-filled fitness event that includes long and short distance running held on Saturday, February 2nd. During the spring, we have our annual United We Read Book Giveaway on April 27th at the Starkville McKee Park, a countywide event also held at Winston, Choctaw, and Webster County.. During the fall, all of our yearly programs will come back to support our “full, fit, and literate” mission even further, such as the City Wide Tailgate, the Run United Multi Event, and our United We Feed countywide program.

United Way of North Central Mississippi has been affiliated with the four counties surrounding each other for years, causing an effect many have been thankful for years ahead. With the support we can create, many will feel the difference it takes from one neighbor, to a neighborhood of investors building each other up, to ultimately businesses and organizations standing up for the hidden but crucial needs our community faces today. Our mission for every member of our community to be “fit, fit, and literate” has not changed in 2019, and we continuously strive daily to ensure that each neighbor has access to these needs. For this new year, we encourage each neighbor to start a change for a stronger community, a community that is full, fit, and literate for the future, a cause that will affect generations for years to come.

For United Way of NCM and its battalion of strong neighbors to fulfill the mission, it will require an investment from every individual, business and industry. Incoming Vice President and 2019 Campaign Chair Dr. Brittney Oliver reminds us “2019 is sure to be an exciting year for United Way of North Central Mississippi (UWNCM) and the communities it serves. Last year, under the leadership of Angella Baker and Paul Luckett 2018 Campaign chair, we witnessed tremendous support from businesses, organizations, sponsorships and community members alike.” According to Candy Crecink, ExecutiveDirector North Mississippi Medical Center – Eupora, led the way with their employee payroll deduction program. Joining them were over 25 local, regional, and national businesses and industries including leaders in their fields : East MS Lumber Company, Flexsteel, 4 County Electric, C B & S Bank, ATMOS GAS, Bancorp South, MSU, PACCAR, Xerium and Southwire.

UWNCM also received individual gifts from neighbors in the four-county region. In Kind Support was another vital factor in UWNCM’s ability to be a strong neighbor. The collective support of our diverse donors enabled UWNCM and its partner agencies to address community priorities through events such as United We Feed and United We Read. UWNCM is tremendously appreciative of the continued and new support of its neighbors.

“As the incoming Campaign Chair, it is my chief goal to not only sustain the efforts of my predecessors but to also enhance our neighbors' investment in UWNCM; an investment in UWNCM is an investment in the greater community, extending beyond a singular population, priority issue, or program. Given the number of community needs reflected in the preliminary results of the community-wide assessment, the UWNCM has a variety of opportunities to assist residents and organizations in addressing their economic, educational, and health-related concerns. Alleviating priority concerns such as food insecurity, low literacy levels, and poverty

necessitate financial support to provide healthy foods, educational materials, and housing and employment resources. I encourage all of our neighbors to learn about our sponsorships, individual gifts, and other options for giving.”

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