Volume 1806• Issue 8 • June 2018

Remembering Erma Jean 

    One of the things I’ll remember about Christi Webb’s mother, Erma Jean Hamblin, who died in late June  at 90, was how much her family meant to her. I saw this up close, especially as a child. My mother, Jane,  and Erma Jean were best friends. They grew up together, graduated from high school together, and lived  in the same neighborhood the rest of their lives. 

    When my mother died, I was 11 years old. Erma Jean and her family stepped in to help my father, Billy,  take care of me. As the years moved on and I moved away, I visited Erma Jean and her husband, Jack, at  Christmas and sometimes more often. It was always like nothing had changed and we just picked up the  conversation right where we’d left off.  

   Among her large family, Erma Jean had four sisters. I knew them all; they were our neighbors, too. Her  great nephew, Clark Richey, wrote a column in the Baldwyn News last week: 

    “Ruby, Edna, Delia Mae, Geneva and Erma Jean – those were the sisters. They laughed and loved one  another, and visited, and fed each other, and fed each other’s children and grandchildren.....their starting  point on this earth – from a purely financial perspective – was essentially void of any reason to retain  even a basic hope for the future that was about to unfold on each of them.....But they, and their brothers,  had fight in them.....they all had gardens.....not because they enjoyed gardening as a pastime, but because  they developed the habit back when they had to insure they had plenty to eat.” 

    Erma Jean was indeed all about helping her family. I can see her influence on Families First for  Mississippi and the Family Resource Center whether she ever realized it or not. Christi’s mission has  always been about helping people and families and she has developed a strong network of family and  friends that share that same mission. That support system of family and friends will hold each other up as  they hold memories of Erma Jean with them always.

   --- Jeff Roberson, FRC Oxford 


    FRC joined with local organizations in Chickasaw/ Houston  to educate fathers and sons about safety while enjoying a day of fun and food.   Present were Chickasaw Emergency Mgt, Chickasaw Co. Sheriff's Department, Houston Police Department, Chickasaw Extension Service, the local Fire Department and Ambulance Service.

     Hotdogs, hamburgers and fun were had by all!


Father's Day was observed in Columbus with card creations during Literacy Camp. The cards included a picture of the child, a hand print and a personal message.


FRC Fatherhood Event held at Theron Nichols Park in Tupelo

   The Family Resource Center of Tupelo (FRC) through their Families First for Mississippi Program, partnered in hosting a Fathers & Son Event at the Theron Nichols Park in Tupelo June 14th.  The event was held to foster father/son relationships in an effort to heighten awareness and enhance relationship connections.

      Partnering with FRC was the Tupelo Police Athletic League and the REAL MEN STAND UP organization.    “We are a mentoring program based in the City of Tupelo partnering with the City of Tupelo, Tupelo Parks and Recreation, and PAL.  Our purpose is to mentor the young men in our community through different activities such as, speaking at their schools, teaching

life skills, tutoring and many other practical life engaging activities. We strive to enlighten, empower and encourage them to be the best they can be and to be future pillars in our community,” said Tyson Quinn of the REAL MEN organization.

      The Tupelo Police Athletic League’s stated mission is: “Our mission is to bridge relationships between our youth, the community and Tupelo Police Department based on positive experiences!”

      Motivational speakers for the event were Ted DiBiase and Jason Cross of the Tupelo Fire Department.  DiBiase is the executive director of the Heart of David Ministries which is faith-based movement of musicians, artists, entrepreneurs and supporters who are working toward “societal transformation of cities, regions and nations” with focus on “values of friendship, accountability and encouragement.” (www.heartofdavid.org)  Jason is a fire marshal with the Tupelo Fire Department.

      Jeff Finch of FRC explained the program: “We want to bridge gaps and strengthen ties. These programs bring the needs to the surface and plants seeds for continued interaction and development.”  Finch referred to the mission on the Families First website:

   Approximately half of all children will live in single-parent households at some point during childhood.  Unfortunately, a common pattern is for the non-residential parents to become increasingly detached over time.  In response to this, Families First for MS has partnered with the Mississippi Department of Human Services to develop the Non-Custodial Fatherhood Program.   The program is designed to facilitate or foster a sense of understanding of the responsibility of the male non-custodial parent to their children.

“We want all fathers to be actively involved in the lives of their children and become positive influences to demonstrate the importance of reliability and involvement.”

      The hosts provided meals and snacks during the event and all were encouraged to participate in the basketball, baseball, splash pad and other activities.  The event was open to the public and over 100 were in attendance.


Ribbon Cutting Event brings together community officials and leaders at Family Resource Center

Columbus, MS

   The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC) celebrated the official Grand Opening of the Columbus center located on 1575 Second Avenue North.

   Diane Sherrod, Columbus Regional Coordinator said: “The vast number of agencies, entities, and people in attendance today validated the fact that FRC Columbus and our services are not only needed, but are welcomed, in the City of Columbus. This is only the beginning.  I will continue to work hard, and secure more partnerships, so that we can touch more families.

      I am elated and thankful that our Executive Director, Christi Webb, has entrusted me with the opportunity to lead the FRC Columbus campus. I would like to thank God; my husband and daughter; my immediate staff; FRC staff members from other campuses, as well as all other attendees who helped make this day a success. “

     FRC, with Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) operates Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) which is a program that provides education, guidance, referrals and support for needs of families in Mississippi.  FRC and FFFM also offer the Healthy Teens for Mississippi program to foster healthy choices in the areas of abstinence, anti-bullying, peer pressure, suicide prevention, addiction control and much more. 

    This program, combined with the lifestyle programs that address parenting, workforce, addiction and additional needs, is free to the

 public through grants and partnerships with DHS (Department of Human Services) and several other organizations.

    The New Learning Resource Online (NLRO) center at Columbus, one of the programs referenced above, has already had about 30 students to graduate in the online high school program and has almost 110 currently enrolled.  The program allows at-risk teenagers and others who wish to earn a high school diploma to pursue academic advancement.  The FRC center has computers and internet access in the 2nd Avenue North Center and two other nearby locations.  Students can also access the program from home or wherever they have computer access with internet connection to study for credits toward their diplomas.

   Invited to the ceremony were Mayor Robert E. Smith, Sr., Councilman Stephen Jones, Councilman Bill Gavin, Councilman Gene Taylor, Representative Joseph Mickens, Sr., Councilman Charlie Box, Councilman Fredrick Jackson, Representative Gary Chism, Representative Carl Mickens, Representative Joey Hood, Representative Karl Gibbs, Senator Angela Turner-Ford.  Several of these were present.

     Also present during the ribbon cutting ceremony were Chief of Police Fred Shelton and Captain Rick Higgins of the Columbus Police Department.  President Lisa James of the Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce.  Other Chamber Ambassadors present included Lisa Neese, Sherry Clark and Ambassadors from Bancorp South.  Guests included several representatives of many partner organizations.

Child Safety Event in Tupelo brings

large crowd of parents and children

   Tupelo: The Family Resource Center (FRC) hosted a Child Safety Event at their Magazine Street location on June 4th. 

   Hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill, popcorn, candy corn, flavored ice cones, and a drawing for four bicycles added to the excitement.  Children were delighted by book and cartoon characters, face painting and other fun activities.

   At different booths, manned by different departments of FRC, children and parents were happy to receive safety and fun items such as bike helmets.   At each of these booths, information was provided about safety in the following areas:   bicycling, car seats, home maintenance, child care, nutrition, health concerns, parenting tips and many other child care issues.

   Partnering with FRC to educate and provide fun activities for the children were the Tupelo Fire Department, Tupelo Police Department, and many other institutions and organizations.


Summer Youth Program at Meadowview Housing Authority in Ripley provides fun outlet

FRC Educators Will Rowan and Eddie Begonia, with Amy Bratton and Janet Turman, provide not only information about healthy choices to youth groups but also orchestrate games, crafts and healthy snacks.  This program is being presented in communities throughout Northeast Mississippi.

MEMA 4 KIDS was with FRC at Haven Acres Boys and Girls Club in Tupelo


MEMA 4 KIDS goes to schools, communities, cities, and organizations to combat illiteracy while teaching children about disaster preparedness.  MEMA provides educational books, a narrator to present the information to the audience, and characters to interact with the audience in a fun-filled atmosphere. 


The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi/MCEC/Families First for Mississippi is partnering  with MEMA through staff participation in the MEMA DISASTER RESERVIST program.

Life-Saving Partnership

Drives Child Safety

   Each year, more Mississippi children die in car crashes than any other state in the country. A six-year partnership between Toyota Mississippi (Toyota) and the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC) is driving improvements to that statistic for children in Northeast Mississippi.

    As part of Toyota’s onsite Safety Month celebration, hundreds of team members watched as the FRC accepted a $20,000 grant to continue its vehicle safety program for the next 12 months.

   “Having grateful clients go through these trainings and learn how to properly install seats really makes it all worth it,” said Pam Morris, Car Seat Safety Coordinator at FRC.  “What we’re able to do through the partnership with Toyota saves lives and that motivates us to continue our goal of keeping children in Mississippi safe. Simple steps save lives.”

   Toyota’s total contribution of $120,000 supports the FRC community-based passenger safety education program that educates the entire family on critical safety behaviors and provides free child car seats to families in need. Since 2013, hundreds of families have participated in vehicle safety training, over 1,800 car seats have been given to families and 13 car seat installation technicians have been trained.

 Safety Manager Carla Underwood (left) and  Family Resource Center board member Jerry Bailey (right) present FRC Car Seat Safety Coordinator Pam Morris with grant for the car seat program at FRC

    “Toyota has the opportunity and responsibility to reinforce the importance of driver and passenger safety,” said Jerry Bailey, Toyota Mississippi manager and Family Resource Center board member. “Our partnership with the Family Resource Center is paramount in providing vehicle safety education to parents and ensuring car seats and other resources are available for those who need them.”

   The thriving partnership between this dynamic duo, in combination with Harley’s Law, which requires all passengers in a car to wear a properly fastened seat belt or be restrained in a car seat, is steering our state in the right direction.


FRC Hernando introduced Desoto County Economic Assistance to Families First services

      On June 14th, FRC Hernando staff Abby McDonald, Shirica Pickett, and Raneshia Lee, conducted a presentation at the Desoto County Economic Assistance office for the MDHS Region 1 County Directors and their Regional Supervisor, Kristie Greer-Ellis. They were asked to share information about the many Families First services offered at FRC Hernando. FRC spokespersons highlighted FRC efforts to support family stability through the implementation of programs that encourage the development of positive parent-child relationships. FRC speakers also communicated how healthy development is promoted along with well-being of Mississippians by enhancing their ability to make positive choices in their daily lives. 

    FRC presenters explained how the Parenting, Life Skills, and Workforce Development programs all teach fundamental skills that influence these overarching goals and facilitate the development of skills necessary for families to become self-sustaining across generations. FRC speakers also discussed how the literacy and NLRO programs not only aim at increasing reading skills and high school graduation rates, but how they also empower clients to reach their full potential both inside and outside the academic realm.

     After the presentation,  FRC staff members Abby, Shirica, and Raneshia split the County Directors into small groups to role play what it would be like to visit the Family Resource Center as a client in need. Each group was provided a vignette that represented a real-life circumstance that many Mississippians and their families face. The FRC staff members then acted out the Family Assessment and Referral Process within each group. Afterwards, everyone came together to discuss what they saw and what they learned.

    The hope was that the Region 1 County Directors were able to experience a more in-depth look at how Families First and the Family Resource Center is striving to bring the Gen+ model to life in order for them to use the information gained to further empower MDHS families to seek out available resources that aid in strengthening the whole family!


NLRO ceremony was a special day for graduates, their families and friends


By Jeff Roberson, FRC Oxford

   We were notified by the Tupelo office of Family Resource Center of North Mississippi back in the spring that we needed to get ready to host another NLRO summer graduation. We knew the drill, so we moved into action.

   Last June 40 people received their diplomas from the New Learning Resources School District in the graduation ceremony at Batesville Junior High School auditorium. This June the number was 42, and in the audience were some 250 family members, friends, Families First for Mississippi staffers, school and local government officials. Just like a year, the graduates and all those who celebrated with them were overjoyed by their accomplishments.

   The Oxford FRC office was in charge of the day’s event. For the second year we partnered with the South Panola School District to host the ceremony. It would be difficult to imagine another school district in the state more committed to carrying out the mission of the NLRO program for those involved.

    We asked the graduates to arrive at 8:30 a.m. for the 10:30 a.m. ceremony. When we got there to set up, there was already a line of people waiting to enter the building to sign in, get their caps and gowns, have pictures made, and await their shining moment; the culmination of hard work, consistent effort, and a willingness to pursue the degree that had, for whatever reasons, earlier eluded each of them. 

    After the processional with the audience respectfully standing, I welcomed those in attendance, then turned to FRC executive director Christi Webb for her message. Then came remarks from Johnny Flynt, director of Fatherhood for Region 1B of Families First for Mississippi.

Regional Coordinator Jack Gadd then announced the names of the graduates as Jan Mays and Connie Hunter, NLRO educators from FRC Oxford, joined Josie Mathis and Mary Catherine Toliver of the South Panola Parent Center’s NLRO office to hand out diplomas.

    As soon as all had been awarded, Gadd conferred upon the class that they were now high school graduates and asked them to move their tassels to the other side of their mortar boards. Then in unison they tossed their caps into the air, with only one failing to return as it landed on a ledge high above the auditorium’s seats where it remained.

    While there is no official school year with NLRO, these graduations – there is one at ICC Belden July 19 and one in Jackson July 25 – have become important to the mission of the NLRO program through Families First for Mississippi. Not only will the graduates be able to move on toward more productive lives, they will also be able to remember the day they graduated and celebrated a major milestone with their family and friends supporting them.    


    Stifling heat and thick humidity didn’t diminish the passion of young men who traveled from all across Northeast Mississippi on Saturday, June 30th, as they filed in and enthusiastically entered the athletic complex at Christian Preparatory School in Belden, Mississippi, early that morning.  Perhaps, this air of anticipation and excitement was in part because Pernell McPhee (MSU, Washington Redskins), Anthony Dixon (MSU), Kyle Love (MSU, Carolina Panthers), Russell Copeland (Tupelo High School, Retired NFL), Marcus Dupree, Marcus Dent and a group of area high school football coaches were on site to take them through a day of training and motivation.

   From Fulton, Isaac Smith was there with his dad, Reggie Smith, who said he heard about the event at church and wanted his son to experience this exposure with other kids from different areas and to learn from the competitions from the camp.

   A couple of seniors from Iuka who played football for “Tish” High were there also to learn from the “great examples” of the leaders and coaches who were onsite.  Alex Connelison (wide receiver) and Tayvus Duckette (running back) have already received offers from Northeast Community College, explained Chris Cornelison, father of Alex.   He added that he felt that the mentorship of the athletic leaders/coaches at the event was very important to the continuing development of the two young men.

   Reggie Tucker was at the camp in support of his grandson, Raiden Tucker. Raiden’s father, Raymond was also there to support his son.  “He played at Shannon High,” Raymond said and this is very “positive” experience for him.  “This is his first experience” at a camp and “he’s got a good spirit on and off the field.  He loves it.”  The Tuckers agreed that the camp will help the young man to learn to “live the best life he can live and stay positive.”

        Sponsored by Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) the camp was a collaborative effort with Christian Preparatory School, many volunteer coaches and with appearances /support from current/retired football players.  Representing FFFM were Amanda Frederick, Program Co-Director; and field educators, Eddie Begonia and Will Rowan.   T-Shirts were provided by the Pernell McPhee group.  These camps are in conjunction with statewide youth development campaigns.  To learn more about FFFM, go to https://www.familiesfirstforms.org/healthyteens.


Picture bottom left:  FRC Will Rowan, Marcus Dent, Marcus Dupree, FRC Amanda Frederick, Eddie Begonia


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