Starkville Restaurant Week isn’t just about good eats. It’s about how good eats do good! A major component of our annual week-long showcase of the culinary scene in Mississippi’s College Town is the presentation of a $5000 grand prize to one deserving local charity. The Starkville Convention & Visitors Bureau is honored to highlight the work of non-profit organizations in our community, and we are grateful to Cadence Bank for providing our grand prize for the fourth year in a row!
During our charity nomination process, we asked the community to tell us which charities were most deserving, and Starkville really stepped up! Our 2016 charity nominations topped 1000 entries, and showcased quite a few excellent organizations impacting the Starkville area. We are proud to announce the following organizations as our Top Three Charity Finalists, and invite you to learn more about their great work! The finalists will appear on our Starkville Restaurant Week ballot, and eaters will have the opportunity to cast your vote for your favorite every time you eat at a participating restaurant during the week of March 28 – April 3.
MORE ABOUT OUR CHARITY FINALISTS:
STARKVILLE BACKPACK BUDDIES
“It’s hard to achieve anything if you’re hungry, and that’s especially true for children.”
Those are the words of Susan Tomlinson, coordinator of Starkville Backpack Buddies, a local outreach program begun by First United Methodist Church. In response to a need church members recognized while tutoring high school students, Backpack Buddies provides ready-to-eat, non-perishable meal packages that children can take home over the weekend.
With many children in Oktibbeha County living in poverty, our public school district has a number of children who utilize reduced and free lunch programs, however, those programs don’t provide assistance on the weekends. Each meal package provided by Backpack Buddies includes food for two breakfasts and two lunch/dinners. The food requires no preparations, so the children can use it even if no adult is present. Backpack Buddies works with school counselors to identify children who would benefit from the program.
Backpack Backpack buddies has grown over the years to serve nearly 150 children across our county, and First Methodist is joined by other volunteer organizations like Junior Auxiliary and Church of Christ to administer the program.
What nominators said…
“The meals nourish local children, making a positive difference in their personal health and attention at school. This impacts them immediately and makes a positive difference in their future. This charity involves over 200 volunteers, bringing people together who are passionate about stopping hunger in Starkville and our surrounding area.”
“A lot of our students do not know where their next meal may come from. When they come to school they know breakfast and lunch is always available, but that’s only Monday through Friday. Backpack meals help our students eat over the weekend until they can get back to us on Monday. I feel like with help we can help all children in the community feel at ease knowing that they will have something to eat at all times.”
GRASSROOTS ANIMAL RESCUE
“We are here to help animals in need. We pride ourselves on giving care to needy animals and helping them find permanent, loving homes.”
That is the mission of Grassroots Animal Rescue, a volunteer-run, foster-based animal rescue center serving North Mississippi and surrounding areas. Many unwanted, needy or abandoned dogs in our area are in danger of being euthanized because of lack of space and low funding in animal shelters. In addition, many smaller communities do not have animal shelters, and stray dogs end up on the streets. Grassroots facilitates finding foster homes for many of those dogs until they can be adopted into permanent homes.
In addition to partnering foster dogs with adoptive families locally, Grassroots Animal Rescue also works with PetSmart Rescue Waggin’, a national organization, to move dogs who cannot find homes in north Mississippi to other states where there is a greater demand. PetSmart Rescue picks up dogs from Grassroots and other affiliated shelters and transports them to places where they are more likely to be adopted.
What nominators said…
“Grassroots is a completely selfless organization that works hard to find forever homes for abused, neglected, and abandoned dogs in the state of Mississippi. They pull dogs from over – crowded shelters, who would otherwise be euthanized, and help stray dogs in surrounding communities. They are completely volunteer-based and hold full-time jobs, but never hesitate to help when called upon. I can personally vouch for this group and have seen how hard they work, all for the sake of helping dogs that don’t stand a chance.”
“This charity does an excellent job of taking in and taking care of animals who need forever homes. Not only are they an organization who helps animals, but they help other animal rescue organizations as well. They assist the Louisville, MS animal shelter by taking on some of the numerous dogs they receive and work to have those animals adopted. Grassroots goes above and beyond to care for, photograph, share information about their animals to ensure they find the best adopters possible.”
VETS FOR VETS
“Vets for Vets is about taking care of our four-legged heroes.”
That’s how founder, Courtney Griffin describes the work of Vets for Vets, a program she began with other students at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Through their studies at CVM, the students were aware of wellness, rehabilitation and support programs targeting currently deployed military canines and their handlers. However, they noticed that there were no programs for veteran canines who had previously served in military service or with law enforcement.
Many dogs who have provided invaluable service and heroism overseas partnered with military personnel have rehabilitation needs when they return. Dogs in the program receive a thorough exam, and clinicians develop a recommended play for rehabilitation. Students are able to gain experience by working with the veteran dogs through their treatment plans.
Vets for Vets focuses on helping dogs who have served with military or law enforcement to improve their quality of life after service and regain movement and skills that may have been lost in the line of duty. The organization is involved in the care of the animals, as well as in raising funds and awareness about the need for this type of service for dogs who have bravely assisted our communities and nation.
What nominators said…
“The goal of Vets for Vets is to provide the funds to fully pay for retired military dogs physical therapy. Due to these dogs extensive training and multiple tours over seas, these dogs tend to have arthritis and various other joint and health problems. Thanks to the Class of 2018 and the vet school, we are able to sponsor retired military dogs to receive physical therapy for their ailments. Not only are the treatments beneficial to the animals, but also to the owners. This organization is a great way to give back to our 4 legged veterans!”
“When dogs retire from the military they are given to military dog handlers to be kept as their pets. The handlers generally do not have the funds to pay for the veterinary care these dogs need – they often need specialty care and rehabilitation. Vets for Vets started here in Starkville provides that special care with no cost to the owners.”
Congratulations to our Top Three Charity Finalists! Mark your calendars now for March 28-April 3 when you’ll have the opportunity to cast your ballot for which of these three charities will receive the $5000 top prize! We’ll be sharing interviews and more of their work leading up to Starkville Restaurant Week when you, our eaters, will be making your voting decisions!
Thank you to CADENCE BANK for supporting Starkville Restaurant Week as our grand prize Charity Sponsor. Cadence Bank will be awarding $5000 to the charity that receives the most votes during this year’s week of eating.
In addition, the 2nd place charity will be awarded $1000, courtesy of Vollor Law Firm, and the 3rd place charity will be awarded $500, courtesy of Copy Cow. During Starkville Restaurant Week, everybody wins — each of our three deserving charities and YOU, our local eaters!