NEWS on LIFE, WORK, & PLAY in Mississippi's College Town

2018 SRW Charity Profile: Christian World Missions

Starkville Restaurant Week is less than a week away, and one of the things that makes this seven-day culinary showcase unique is having the opportunity to raise awareness about the three Charity Finalists, nominated by the community. Since the inception of Starkville Restaurant Week, Cadence Bank, our Gold Charity Sponsor, has generously provided $5000 to the local charity receiving the most ballots during Restaurant Week. This money is applied to local programs which directly affect Starkville and Oktibbeha County through the work of the winning organization. Restaurant Week eaters play a huge role in continuing that tradition of community service. Every time you eat at one of our 27 participating restaurants, you will have the opportunity to vote on which charity you feel is most deserving of the prize!

This week, we will be sharing profiles of each of our three Charity Finalists so that you can learn more about their work and their impact on the community. Each profile also contains information about how you can support and join in the good work accomplished be each organization. Good eats really do good in Starkville!

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CHRISTIAN WORLD MISSIONS

How long has your organization been in operation and how was it founded.

Christian World Missions (CWM) was established in 1971 as Cecil Williamson Ministry. For the first 40 years, our mission was focused on assistance to international partners: establishing and building new churches, schools, and orphanages; digging wells; providing sound and video equipment, furnishings, salaries, and other support items for pastors.

In 2011, when Cecil retired, his daughter, Lee Ann Williamson, returned to Starkville, merging her ministry with her dad’s. While CWM has continued the international work, the new leadership began to ask the question, “If we can do all this around the world, why can’t we do it right across the street?” At that time, the North Starkville Outreach was born, and regular monthly gatherings for movies, barbecues, and holiday meals drew the North Starkville community together.

The Christian World Missions headquarters sits in the middle of some of the poorest neighborhoods of North Starkville. The challenges our neighbors face are many: In this area, except for a single neighborhood of medium-income residents, median household income ranges from $15,200-$19,500. The unemployment rate is 16.2% and the number of people living below the poverty line is 39.6%, which compares to a state average of 28.3%. The number of children living in single-parent households is 43%, compared to 27% nationwide. We knew there was something we could do.

What is your organization’s ongoing  mission?

After a few years, it became apparent that the greatest impact CWM could have in the area was to offer an afterschool and summer encounter for mid-high students, and Youth Community Explosion (YCE) was established in the summer of 2015. Our theme is, “God sees you in your destiny, not your history.” We want to help students grasp a vision for a future outside the cycle of poverty. We want each one to learn to set goals and achieve them. We want to give them the tools and support they need to become all they are made for.

Does your organization work with any other groups or non-profit organizations to accomplish its mission?

Had it not been for an army of partners, none of this could have happened. From the start, First United Methodist Church, Modern Woodmen of America, the Maroon Volunteer Center, and Volunteer Starkville have been a vital part of Youth Community Explosion. Volunteers have provided daily snacks and meals, tutoring and mentoring, education programs, and even help with construction on The Storehouse.

In what ways does your organization impact Starkville and the Golden Triangle area?

More than 50 students have participated in the program, 3 days a week during the school year and 4 days a week in summer, for tutoring, character development, field trips, retreats, camps, and lots of good food and fun. In addition, their families join us for special parties and programs throughout the year. We still host neighborhood block parties so that more people learn about our virtually free program ($30 for an entire semester or summer program), and we continue to learn ways we can make a difference.

Can you briefly share one of your success stories?

One of the most effective programs we have conducted is Cardboard City. It is an overnight experience in homelessness, in which students build shelters from cardboard boxes and sleep outdoors. They are served from a makeshift “soup kitchen,” and hear testimonies and teachings about the struggles of the homeless. A genuine sense of empathy for those less fortunate helps our youth to understand the impact they can have in the world, even though they, themselves, may live in poverty.

Our kids are learning they can make a difference in the world through service. At least twice a month, the youth of YCE can be seen around town cleaning up trash, serving first responders, and playing games with senior citizens. One of them recently said, “I used to think, “They pay people to do this stuff; why should I do it?’ But I’m starting to see how doing things because I want to helps people know they are loved. Serving other people makes me feel like I have something to offer.”

Kenisha* has been part of YCE since she was in 7th grade. She was struggling in school when she started, and since her mom works nights at Yokohama, she couldn’t help Kennedy with homework. Through time with tutors and our youth leaders, Kennedy learned to study and set goals. She is now in 9th grade and making A’s and B’s. She continues to participate in YCE as a junior counselor, and wants to be a doctor.

Jakob* has only been a part of YCE for 18 months, but the transformation in him has been remarkable. He struggles with ADHD, and because of other health issues, cannot take the medication that would help him control his impulses. Our VISTA worker, Blake Adams, has developed a terrific relationship with Jakob, teaching him to work with tools, playing basketball and studying with him. Jakob still has to work really hard at almost everything, but as he has come to recognize his value as a human, that he is loved and appreciated, he has begun to think more of others. He now finds ways to be helpful, rather than creating chaos. He has become a true help to all of us. Jakob Sr. was having a tough time getting his life together and some of our staff, unbeknownst to us, was reaching out to help him. Relationships, real relationships, open the door to life change, in every situation.

Approximately how many people does your organization serve each year?

Between 50-100 students.

How does your organization receive funding for your work, and what would the $5000 SRW Charity Prize help you achieve?

CWM is support financially by gifts from individuals, churches, and businesses; by grants from foundations, including the Terral Family Foundation, SOAR/Create Foundation, and others; and by fund raising efforts like our annual Dinner Theater, Drive-In Dinner, The Village at Christmas Tree Lane, and other family fun events. The cash award will be used to help pay for carpeting in our outreach center. We still have a few walls to complete in classrooms, but our library, new bathrooms, youth office, and youth activity room, are ready to go – they just need flooring. We are excited that Starkville Restaurant Week is going to help us move closer to that goal.

What do you feel is your group’s greatest accomplishment?

One of the reasons we became passionate about working in North Starkville was the rise in racial tensions over the last 10 years. We believed that if we could establish relationships with our neighbors, understanding would grow. We’ve been blessed to work with some truly gifted and passionate people from throughout our community, including partnerships with Brickfire, Boys & Girls Club, FUMC Youth Fellowship, and others.

Where can people go to learn more about your organization, and how can people get involved?

Read more about Christian World Missions, Youth Community Explosion, and The Storehouse on facebook pages for each of those, and on our websites: http://www.ChristianWorldMissions.org and http://www.TheStorehouseatCWM.com or give us a call and come by for a tour at The Storehouse, 1437 Fire Station Road, Starkville. 662-324-0390

You’re one of our Top Three SRW Charities! Now tell us what it means to you to be included as part of Starkville Restaurant Week as one of the Top Three Charities.

We are so excited to be selected as one of the three charities for Starkville Restaurant Week. Thank you for the opportunity to let others know about what we are doing with some of Starkville’s most vulnerable youth!