The United Way of North East Mississippi “Coffee and Conversations” came to Okolona last week, and they met with the leaders of some of the nonprofits in the area.

OKOLONA • United Way of Northeast Mississippi (UWNEMS) hosted a “Coffee and Conversations” meeting at Excel Commons in Okolona on July 7. This meeting was the third in a series that will take place this year in each of the eight counties served by UWNEMS.

In attendance at the Chickasaw County meeting were Sisters Liz Brown and Nancy Schreck with Excel, Inc., Craig Shannon with Mississippi Action for Progress HeadStart and Ouida Lathan with Mission Okolona Food Pantry.

The nonprofit organizations shared information about the strategic partnerships they have been able to form with other United Way funded agencies and community partners. Excel, Inc. hosts a CATCH Kids free clinic in their facility, and both Mission Okolona and HeadStart encourage families using their services to get free check-ups for their children at the clinic. Shannon has asked HeadStart staff to volunteer at Mission Okolona at least twice per year and share information about the program with food pantry clients.

The organizations also shared some new developments within their agencies. Excel, Inc. welcomed young, out of-state volunteers during the month of June to assist with some projects at the center. Mission Okolona recently obtained a new freezer and can now store fresh produce to give out to food pantry clients. HeadStart has current openings for both students and teachers, and Shannon communicated that retired teachers are a target audience because they can work for HeadStart and retain their PERS salary since HeadStart is funded through a grant.

United Way staff shared information about the programs United Way has funded in Chickasaw County and the newer community initiatives around the issues of food insecurity, early childhood education and health. Kim Rushing presented information about Volunteer Northeast Mississippi, the regional volunteer hub she directs in partnership with UWNEMS, CREATE Foundation and Volunteer Mississippi, and the programs they have available to help nonprofit organizations with organizational development and capacity-building.

United Way also provided information about the upcoming grant application process for nonprofit organizations interested in receiving United Way funds in 2022-2024. Any 501©(3) nonprofit organization serving the eight counties covered by UWNEMS and meeting a need related to Academic Success, Health and Wellness or Family Stability is invited to apply for funding. Inquiries should be directed to Rebecca Nelson, director of community impact, at 662-841-9133 or rebecca@unitedwaynems.org

The goal of the Coffee and Conversations meetings is for United Way staff to hear directly from nonprofit organizations, community leaders and residents of each of the eight counties in UWNEMS’ service area in order to better meet the needs of everyone in the Northeast Mississippi region.

The next Coffee and Conversations meeting has been scheduled in Prentiss County at Northeast Community College on July 14, and future meetings are planned in Monroe, Pontotoc and Tishomingo counties before the end of the year.

For more information about United Way of Northeast Mississippi, visit unitedwaynems.org

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