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

2018 SRW Charity Profile: United Way of North Central Mississippi

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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UNITED WAY OF NORTH CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI

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

In the midst of creating a sound economic developed community, John Robert Arnold (community pillar and community philanthropist) realized the need for an organization with a purpose of coordinating efforts to gather funds to support the existing non profit agencies and their missions to create better lives for all Oktibbeha County residents. He found this in the national United Way organization. From here, Mr. Arnold and his associates established a localoffice – United Way of Oktibbeha County. Thru the efforts of the local office, the United Way Worldwide and United Way of Mississippi realized the need to expand the United Way of Oktibbeha County region to include Webster, Winston and Choctaw counties in 1988.

What is your organization’s ongoing  mission?

It is the mission of the United Way of North Central Mississippi to champion programs and initiatives that bring people together in Oktibbeha, Choctaw, Webster and Winston Counties to overcome obstacles that hinder our neighbors from being safe, healthy and productive members of the community.

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

The UWNCM serves thru monetary support and promotional support, 15 vital non-profit agencies that address the health, education and income needs of our neighbors. The present 15 agencies include American Red Cross, GPTDD’s Area Agency on Aging, Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Club of Oktibbeha County, CONTACT Helpline, The Father’s Child Ministries, 4-H Club, Girl Scouts, Heart of the South, Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity, Oktibbeha County Humane Society, Project Help, The Salvation Army, Safehaven/The Rape Crisis Center, The Sally Kate Winters Children’s Home and Volunteer Starkville.

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

Besides being involved directly with each of the agencies, UWNCM as community builders creates an impact in the area through the following annual projects- United We Feed- occurring in the late fall over a 4 week time span, this event in 2017 gathered 12 tons of food for the 4 counties. 8.5 tons was gathered in Oktibbeha County. This collection of non-perishable food items was distributed amongst 17 food pantries, the Backpack program, Casserole Kitchen, Oktibbeha Co Humane Society ,Salvation Army and Emerson Family Life Center. In most cases, food pantries were well stocked for 4 to 5 months;

United We Read- Occurring the entire month of April-National Read month, this event gathers donated books for all ages throughout the 4 county areas. The month long event culminates with a Book Give Away Day. Book Give Away Day finds individuals of all ages- toddlers to senior citizens coming and selecting all the books they want for free. 2017 resulted in 3000 books being donated and 3000 books being given away for free through the book giveaway, furnishing books to the Homebound Senior Citizens thru the Area Agency on Aging, the local libraries for their fundraisers, the Little Free Libraries and local nursing home and retirement home libraries;

Run United 5K – Occurring in September, the run addresses the ongoing need for more exercise oriented events. Exercise events that will help alleviate the obesity issue for all ages in this area. With awards for all age groups from 12 and under to 70 +, the Run United 5k allows for a day of family participation, neighbors encouraging each other to maintain good health and for the community to learn more about their other non profit agencies. UWNCM at this time is waiting on contact from the State of Mississippi Mental Health Dept for scheduling of a town hall meeting to educate our community, our neighbors on the Opioid Addiction Issue and how as a community we can address it.

Can you briefly share one of your success stories?

Each day brings multitudes of success stories our way. We are all about good neighbors and the fact that It’s not a handout or even a hand up; it is walking with our neighbors.” When you see groups such as MSU’s Men of Excellence drive up to the United We Feed Oktibbeha County Food Distribution Site on a Sunday afternoon in a Ford F-350 truck with the bed of truck flowing over with bags filled with thousands upon thousands of cans of food, you realize here are good neighbors (so many from outside this area but calling this home for 4 years) coming together to make sure their new neighbors can overcome the obstacle of hunger. When a 94 year old lady comes up to you the morning of the book giveaway and instructs you to find her a chair, 3 big boxes and point her to the romance book tables and says “This is going to keep me alive for another year”, you realize here are good neighbors who thru their book donations have provided another year of joy of reading to one who without this would have faced a certain type of loneliness. When UWNCM is awarded a national philanthropic anonymous grant that allows for new programs to be initiated resulting in 300 fans provided to homebound senior citizens without cooling systems and families without cooling systems, support to a local program addressing the school needs of over 180 homeless children, support to a disability screening center serving three states and central to north Mississippi who without the support would have no testing throughout the summer months, support to a local children’s home Child Well Being efforts and so much more. Reminding UWNCM there are so many neighbors that we can and need to walk with each day.

Approximately how many people does your organization serve each year?

Between the services of the UWNCM fifteen supported agencies, and UWNCM’s projects, the number is in the tens of thousands.

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

Funding is received thru: individual, corporate, employee fair share investments, grants and fund raisers. The $5000.00 will assist in achieving UWNCM’s ongoing goal to support the fifteen agencies that assist us in being effective community builders.

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

UWNCM thru 26 years of existence has been able to continue to champion initiatives that bring people together for the purpose of building a community better for everyone. We are in reality making a difference and creating a positive impact.

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

Visit the website www.unitedwayncms.com, Visit the facebook-United Way of North Central Mississippi. Call- 6620323-3830 or come by our office located on the 3rd floor of the Regions Bank Building- 300 University Drive. Neighbors can become involved thru investing in their UWNCM, signing up thru the Kroger community support program or the Amazon Smile community give back program, volunteering with one of UWNCM’s events and most importantly become a vocal volunteer- alert all their friends, family, associates to become good
neighbors and invest in their communities thru UWNCM.

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.

It means that we have earned the trust and loyalty of so many of our neighbors who thru their nominations are saying “ United Way of North Central Mississippi is doing a good job. United Way of North Central Mississippi s a strong neighbor making a stronger community.