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Volume 1902• Issue 45 • February 2019

I believe I am speaking for most all of the staff at the Family Resource Center when I say that we are all looking forward to warmer, dry weather. With so much sickness going around recently and with the terrible storm damage and flooding experienced by so many in our communities, it is easy to become discouraged. But when I take a moment to appreciate the strength and resiliency of our talented and dedicated staff and when I see the difference they are making in the lives of families in North Mississippi every day, despite the many obstacles they face, I am filled with gratitude and renewed hope for sunnier days ahead.


I believe I am speaking for most all of the staff at the Family Resource Center when I say that we are all looking forward to warmer, dry weather. With so much sickness going around recently and with the terrible storm damage and flooding experienced by so many in our communities, it is easy to become discouraged. But when I take a moment to appreciate the strength and resiliency of our talented and dedicated staff and when I see the difference they are making in the lives of families in North Mississippi every day, despite the many obstacles they face, I am filled with gratitude and renewed hope for sunnier days ahead.

Message from Christi Webb, Executive Director

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Boss Lady
Click on any box in this section to see story.

FRC Staff (MEMA Volunteers) are on Stand-By to help


The initiative was announced during a press conference this month at the MHP headquarters.


    High school students across the state are beginning to look ahead to prom season, and several state agencies and organizations are partnering to ensure that while students are thinking of what to wear, they’ll also think of making it home safely.

    The Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Mississippi Highway Patrol and Families First of Mississippi are partnering for a prom season safety initiative, which is aptly named “PROM”, and it stands for “Please Return on Monday in the same condition you left”.

     Representatives from each organization, along with several individuals who have been left paralyzed from car crashes, will travel across the state to speak to high school students about the importance of prom night safety.

     The campaign urges prom-bound students to make good choices, such as buckling up, no texting and driving and no drinking and driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 1,000 students die each year while celebrating their proms and graduations.

   MHP Captain Johnny Poulos knows that students are going to be excited about the big night, but he wants them to look beyond prom night to ensure they make the right choices.

      “We try to hit from a standpoint of ‘There’s good things down the road for you, but to get down the road, you have to make good decisions now. We want you to enjoy the prom season, but again, responsible decisions will ensure that’,” he explained.

    Poulos went on to say that the MHP will have an increased presence on the roadways when prom season begins.

    Chris Howard, Executive Director for the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, has seen countless accident survivors live the rest of their lives with a disability and wants students to know how dangerous the wrong choices can be.

      “This campaign is focused on showing teens the full circle of consequences of their choices to text and drive, drink and drive, and of not wearing a seatbelt,” said Chris Howard, Executive Director for the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services.      “While Troopers are the ones having to knock on doors with the grim news that a loved one will not be coming home ever again, we see the side where individuals may be left with a disability– because automobile accidents are a leading cause of traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries”

     Dwight Owens was hit by a drunk driver while working as a teacher in 2005, and he is now paralyzed from the waist down. Owens will join the partnership to see to it that students don’t put themselves or others in harm’s way this prom season.

     “I want them to value their lives. When you value your life, then you won’t put yourself in those type of predicaments,” he said.

     Families First for Mississippi has a presence in every county across the state, and they’ll have a chance to speak with parents and students ahead of prom night to share their message.

     “Prom and graduation celebrations should be among the most exciting and memorable events of a student’s high school career,” Co-Director Dr. Nancy New said. “All too often we hear of a bad choice that instantly turns great memories into unimaginable nightmares. We’re excited to partner in the P.R.O.M. campaign in conjunction with Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi. It’s exciting to see our teen council members promoting this message to their peers. It’s a reminder that safety is a shared responsibility.”

    The last night of January saw temperatures down in the low 20’s and this repeated again a week later after unseasonable warm-up.  In addition, it rained and it rained throughout our second month, leaving the ground saturated and unstable.  By February 22nd, residents could expect almost anything and that is exactly what they got…elevated temperatures, torrential downpours and a very unstable environ that resulted in tornadoes and flooding across the northern half of the state.

    MEMA,  the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, in partnership with FEMA, DHS and organizations like The Family Resource Center (FRC) stands ready to help when there is a general emergency.  MEMA currently is reporting that 300 residences, 190 roads and bridges, along with at least 30 business have been damaged from these storms.  These numbers do not include Lowndes County which is still being assessed as of this writing! Tragically, one death has been reported and the property damage estimates continue to rise.

       Many staff at FRC are part of the volunteer team to support recovery when a disaster happens.  These staff were put on STAND BY as of Saturday and are currently awaiting instructions for how to help serve the victims. 

   In our monthly newsletter, a list of reported damage as of February 24th is included as the final item. 

    The FRC message to staff and FRC supporters is this from MEMA:

   The State Emergency Operations Center is activated and monitoring any requests or unmet needs from the county emergency management offices. 

    The public is encouraged to report damage to homes or businesses to their county emergency management office. A directory of all the offices can be found at http://www.msema.org/county-ema/

      MEMA will provide updates as information becomes available. The best way to get up-to-date information during this event is to “Like” MEMA on Facebook, or “Follow” us on twitter @msema

WTVA posted multiple pictures of roads flooded, homes compromised and rescuers stepping in to help people back to safety.   The community jumped to action to help each other brave the elements during this weather disaster.


Until FedEx provided a way, job opportunities for residents of the Mississippi Delta were scarce.  

   They call Pam Chatman “Boss Lady” and she is a champion for people who need a chance to better themselves, says mississippitoday.org.  In September of 2017, she launched PChatman Network (national and global television platform) to explore local issues. A quick perusal of her Facebook postings will convince you that she is an involved sort of person and that is what this story is about.

This is about a lady that who is working to help those who are struggling to stay above the flood waters of a depressed economy and who are trying their best to make a livable wage.

    She tells on CBS WREG video story after story of single parents who have to make the decision at the end of the month on whether they pay the rent or put food on the table for the kids.   She relates conversations she has had with some of the delta residents who want to work to support themselves and their families but they only make $7.25 an hour.  On $300 a week BEFORE taxes, not much is left to support rent, utilities, food, car insurance and gasoline to drive to work.   The unemployment rate in the area is about 8% but those that are working aren’t making it, in some cases.        Until now.

     Chatman was contacted by a recruiter from Federal Express who saw the potential for a good work force in the Delta area for the FedEx operation in Memphis.  So, they worked with Chatman to arrange a series of job fairs to which around 1000 showed up seeking jobs.  Tantalized by the prospects of medical insurance, tuition assistance and twice the minimum wage, some of these folks stood in line for hours for this opportunity.

Hundreds were hired by FedEx.

     The commute from the Delta area to the Memphis FedEx facility, around two hours, might appear daunting but the axiom of where these is a will, there is a way stood true in this case.  That challenge was overcome by FedEx providing three charter buses to transport employees from Cleveland, Mississippi to Memphis every night to work in the hub.

      Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) Co-Director was on hand with Pam Chatman in Cleveland to discuss how FFFM can support the initiative.  Executive Director Christi Webb was beyond pleased with this partnership with Pam Chatman for improvement in the Mississippi Delta.  She was on hand to add other incentives to those newly hired by FedEx such as workforce training, parenting and other life skill classes.


Pictured above are Pam Chatman, Gerald Morris  and FFFM Executive Co-Director Christi Webb.


Online Diploma Program is Giving Mississippians Hope


    Excitement was in the air at the South Panola Junior High School auditorium as twenty-six students awaited their graduation ceremony. These were not the average 17/18-year-old, 8 am – 4pm, Monday – Friday students who have part time jobs and live for the weekends. No, these were individuals whose paths changed and took alternate routes to get to this day. They are mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters all in one place to receive their high school diploma. They reside in Chickasaw, Coahoma, DeSoto, Lafayette, Marshall, Panola, Sunflower, and Yalobusha county. There to give a few encouraging words was State Representative Lataisha Jackson of Como and many Families First staff who lifted, pushed, and cheered on these students from start to finish.

    An energetic, Johnny Brown, opened up about his journey and the plans he has now because of the diploma. “I graduated Lafayette High School with an occupational diploma, however, it was not accepted by any Mississippi accredited college or university”, Brown stated. “I had to find a resource that worked for me and I thank God every day for Families First.” He continued, “Sometimes people stereotype those who don’t finish high school, calling them dropouts and failures. I feel like I’ve wiped my slate clean and finished something that I can be proud of. I am excited to start working towards my mortician license and commercial driving license,” he stated with a big smile.

      Another student, Diana House, echoed Brown’s enthusiasm, saying, “This program is a blessing. I have been out of school for twenty-six years and finally decided to get my diploma so I could fulfill my dream of becoming a nurse.” House has worked for Senatobia Healthcare and Rehab for the past twenty-two years as an assistant. She realized that her current position was the highest she could go in the healthcare field with her education level and wanted to change that. “I didn’t want to sit in a GED class all day when I have had a full time job since leaving school and raising my son. Through this program, I was able to work at my own pace at my own time. It took a while but I was determined to finish.” House encouraged her niece to enter the program soon after and they were able to share the experience of receiving their diplomas together.

      The word for the day was blessings. State Representative Jackson left the students with these words, “Enjoy today. A lot of times it is easy to start something but harder and more rewarding to finish. Committing to finishing is key. Graduates, you are beacons of encouragement for your communities. This is how we start to change our counties, our society, and our futures.”


Families First Campus in Calhoun City held its Grand Opening on January 22nd with tremendous support from local community and education leaders

    “I am very excited about opening the family resource center in Calhoun County.  Being from Calhoun County, I know we have many families in need of the services we provide.,” said Porter Casey, Regional Coordinator for Families First for Mississippi (FFFM).  Casey has been active in the education system in Mississippi for a number of years, including Principal of Vardaman High School, before joining FFFM.


Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) celebrated the official Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the FFFM Calhoun City Campus, at the Calhoun County Career and Technical Center.


Guests present included Mayor Amye Hill; Dr. Lisa Langford - School Superintendent; Kyle Clark - Director of Calhoun County Career and Technical Center; Shelia Freely - Director of Calhoun Economics; Barney Wade—President of the Board of Supervisors, Gregory Alston representing Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mayor James Casey of Vardaman, Mayor Rudy Pope of Bruce and many other leaders and supporters of the community.


Teaming with Casey at the center are Renee Whitten, Patti Young, Jean Ann Casey and Lisa Sutherland.  They will all base their services from the N. Madison Street location, reaching into schools, clubs, organizations and other non-profit organizations to enhance current services while not duplicating those already available.


As a long-time resident of the area, also his hometown, Casey has long standing relationships with many of the leaders within the local community and government.  While researching for the most suitable location for the new center, Casey reached out to his hometown network for input and direction.  This led to a partnership that lends itself toward great benefits for all involved.


The Career and Technical Center had space in their building that was not currently in use and an agreement was made that FFFM would provide the needed infrastructure improvements needed for their purposes in lieu of rent.  This win-win arrangement would include space for the New Learning Resources Online (NLRO) program so that at-risk students can earn a high school diploma online.  There will be ten stations available for students to access the internet and learning program at the center.   The students can also log in from any computer with internet access, studying from home or a location of their choice.  All testing for credits earned will be with a proctor at the center. 


“We are so pleased to be partnering with Families First to provide opportunities for the people of Calhoun County and the students of our school district.  We are happy to provide space in our Career and Technical Center for Families First to utilize. We are so thankful Mrs. Christi Webb chose to locate resources here with us and look forward to making this partnership a success for everyone involved,” said Dr. Lisa Langford, School Superintendent.


Kyle Clark, Director of the Career and Tech center echoed her sentiments: “I’m excited to have Families First in the Calhoun County Career and Technical Center with us. The services they will provide for the community and students of Calhoun County will be such a great benefit to our citizens.”


“This will help improve local graduation rates,” Casey said.   He also mentioned that there will be other youth development programs, parenting classes, literacy, and several other life skills classes.  The program seeks to strengthen families of all backgrounds and life circumstances by providing youth development and parent education through seminars, workshops, classes, and presentations.   All services are free to the public through grants and partnerships with DHS (Department of Human Services) and several other organizations.


Calhoun City Mayor Amye Hill said, “We are very fortunate to have Families First joining us in Calhoun City to help our citizens get on track in education and the other services that will be offered.  For some, this will be a jump start to be able to move toward improved work opportunities and economic advancement.  We certainly plan to provide as much support to this organization as we can and look forward to expanding involvement through encouragement to our judicial team as we work together to address addiction education and recovery.”

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Imagine being a child and not having a bed to sleep on.  Your only bed is a pile of clothes on the floor or just a blanket on the floor.  This is simply a fact of life for some children and this is something that Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) is working to change.

The faith-based branch of FFFM started the program of providing beds less than a year ago and have delivered over 150 beds since beginning the program.  Staff and volunteers work in the donated space owned by Jacob Cunningham of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Baldwyn to build the wooden frames and are active in seeking partners, volunteers, and donations of bedding items and funds to keep the project sound and moving forward.

The word is out about the program and people are reaching into their hearts and pockets to help fund this mission. 

Donations pouring in for Beds for Kids at Families First for Mississippi


Mike Lindell is the inventor of the popular “My Pillow” and founder of the company that has the same name.  He is not just another friendly TV celebrity but also a guy with a big heart.  He has recently donated three hundred of his pillows to the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi’s Beds for Kids program. This was through his charity the Lindell Foundation.

Innocor of Baldwyn donated fifty pillows this month.  They were among the original contributors when the program first started.

The Best Foam Company in Sherman heard about the program and donated ten foam mattresses.

Sixty-four twin and twenty-five full comforters were donated by Kidz World Furniture of Calhoun City.  President Alison Nichols also serves as a youth leader at her church.  Her youth group purchased 20 pillow cases and painted a Bible verse on each to add to the donation.  (See picture below.)

Families First employees in Tupelo jumped in one day when bedding supplies were short and quickly collected about $200 to buy pillows and other bedding supplies needed that day.

Hawkins Inc. in Ripley recently donated enough lumber for volunteers to build more than 100 beds.

There are also usually weekly donations that come from members of the Mt. Olive Baptist church where Stanley Huddleston serves as pastor.  Huddleston is director of the faith-based initiative and the Beds for Kids program.  “Just about every week, someone brings a comforter or sheets or mattress cover,” he added.

Huddleston is excited to also report that some of the churches, organizations and groups he has been in contact with are on board with the project and are helping to find locations for construction of the beds in other areas.  In addition, many are also exploring support in not just the construction and furnishing of bedding but are considering becoming a center for client contact and eventual delivery.

Anthony Mitchell, Audrey Cunningham, Janet Turman and Amy Bratton, who are assisting Huddleston, are finding their work expanding rapidly and are grateful for those who are volunteering to help build, help delivery and setup beds after qualification.


Alison Nichols, Kidz World owner, with two of her associates, are with FRC Beds for Kids coordinators, Anthony Mitchell and Stanley Huddleston.

January was a Busy Month at FRC Oxford

January is always an important month as we begin a new calendar year. At FRC Oxford, this month was made even more special with the first winter NLRO graduation.


In 2017 and again in 2018, the FRC Oxford staff hosted summer graduation ceremonies. Along with the previous two ceremonies, more than 100 graduates have walked at the Batesville Junior High School Auditorium where the three ceremonies have been held.


State Representative Lataisha Jackson of Panola County was featured speaker for the event, which drew more than 200 people. The uplifting ceremony was a day of celebration into a new life for the graduates, as their families, friends, and Families First for Mississippi staff applauded them and their accomplishments.


Also in January in Oxford, the "Eggs and Issues" breakfast was held at the Marriott Courtyard Conference Center Hotel in downtown Oxford near the Ole Miss campus. Legislators and elected officials spoke, and the audience of more than 125 people consisted of other city and county officials, surrounding area officials, and business persons from northern Mississippi. Among those speaking were State Senator Gray Tollison and State Representatives Jay Hughes, Jim Beckett, and Steve Massengill.


In late January, Oxford FRC hosted representatives from the Tupelo FRC office, including Stanley Huddleston, Amy Bratton, and Janet Turman. The potential plans for an additional construction site for the "Beds for Kids" program that has been so successful and important in recent months was discussed. Following the meeting at FRC Oxford, the group met at Oxford-University United Methodist Church in downtown Oxford to talk to some of its members interested in becoming active in the "Beds for Kids" program, both from a construction standpoint and a distribution standpoint. Representing the FRC Oxford office at the meeting was Bishop Davis.


Also, Dr. Debra Moore and Jeff Roberson of the FRC Oxford attended a lunch meeting with Mississippi Department of Human Services officials, Families First for Mississippi officials, and representatives from the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. The Oxford FRC office has been instrumental in partnering with the officials and staff from the McLean Institute. Representatives of the McLean Institute, including Dr. Albert Nylander, Dr. JR Love, and Laura Martin, and FRC Oxford staffers Dr. Moore and Roberson, have met several times to work together for the good of Mississippians.


All of the above were among the exciting and important aspects of life at the FRC Oxford to begin the new year of 2019. In the future, we believe these will only be enhanced as the important work of Family Resource Center of North Mississippi and Families First for Mississippi continues.


Jack Gadd and Laura Gillom of FRC Oxford share Family Resource Center of North Mississippi and Families First for Mississippi information with those attending the MLK Day of Service sponsored by Care Now Pantry on the courthouse grounds of Marshall County in Holly Springs on January 21. 

Dr. Debra Moore, Laura Gillom, and Jeff Roberson of FRC Oxford at the MLK Day of Service in Holly Springs. 



Stanley Huddleston of FRC talked to a group of Oxford-University United Methodist Church members about the "Beds for Kids" program in January. 
The church is in talks with FRC to construct and distribute the beds in north Mississippi.


Not every kid has a bed to sleep in but kids in Calhoun City now have beds available through Career & Tech Center new construction project


Bedtime rituals go something like this:   A warm bath and dressing in cozy pajamas, followed by a soothing bedtime story and being tucked into bed by Mommy or Daddy.  The little one is then lulled into a peaceful and restful sleep with soft music in the background.


For some, life is just not that idyllic. Imagine being a child and not having a bed to sleep on.  Imagine that your only bed is a pile of clothes or just a blanket on the floor.  This is simply a fact of life for some children and this is something that Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) is continually working to change.

The faith-based branch of FFFM started the program of providing beds about a year ago and have delivered over 150 beds since beginning the Beds for Kids program.  Staff and volunteers have been working in donated space owned by Jacob Cunningham of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Baldwyn to build the wooden frames.  They are also continually seeking new partners, volunteers, and donations of bedding items and funds to keep the project sound and moving forward.


The program is doing just that:  continuing and moving forward in Calhoun City.  CTE Director Kyle Clark of the Career and Technical Center has embraced the Beds for Kids program and production began on February 26th in their woodworking shop in the center. Brother Stanley Huddleston from the Tupelo FFFM office and head of the faith-based program joined the Calhoun City team on the 26th with blueprints for the bedframes and a team to teach the methods for establishing qualification.  The Calhoun City FFFM staff were instructed in the management of the applications, delivery and setting up of the beds for the new clients.  This is now a self-sufficient center that will manage the program for that district. 


What is striking about the program is the number of people that hear about this and express interest in helping.  Knowing that some little ones not only are growing up without their own bed-haven in a sometimes chaotic world is a heart-tugger.   People are empathetic to a sad situation for little ones that can't change this for themselves. People like Jacob Cunningham in Baldwyn and Kyle Clark in Calhoun City share the vision of a bedtime ritual with the pajamas, the story and being tucked into a warm, secure bed-haven for all little ones.

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With the blueprints and tutelage of Bro. Stanley Huddleston, Calhoun City Career and Tech Staff built their first bed February 26th!

Davis leads with professionalism and compassion

    The Family Resource (FRC) has been fortunate to have staff that has been instrumental in the successes of the organization.  One of these dedicated employees is Shelia Davis.  FRC is pleased to share a little of these histories and philosophies.  This month, our featured employee is Shelia Davis, Co-Program Director for FRC and for the Families First for Mississippi program.  Read below to get to know Shelia.

   "Working here at the Family Resource center for over 19 years has been a tremendous blessing.  I have overseen many different programs while here at the Family Resource Center and taught many classes, counting it all joy. The work we do here is important for the families we serve and the communities that we provide educational classes and workshops."

    She attended Mississippi Valley State University and gradated with bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Davis worked at a federal halfway prison here in MS. She furthered her work experience while working as psychiatric technician at Mill Creek and a day treatment therapist at Regional III Mental Health.  She became certified as CFLE, Certified Family Life Educator and trainer for active parenting, cooperative parenting, 24/7 Dads. She continued with her education by attaining a Master of Education from American Intercontinental University and Master of Social Work from Walden University.

     Her hobbies are cooking, shopping and teaching. She is married to Charles Davis and has two wonderful children. “My grands are my therapy. Lauren Grace and Penelope Rose both inspire me to be a better person and to leave behind a legacy.”

  FRC is fortunate to have such a compassionate and dedicated professional on staff.  In many ways, she is a leader that inspires all the others to attain to the same attributes that she displays everyday.


Tishomingo Inmates receive Certificates of Completion Addition Recovery

   Families First for Mississippi Field (FFFM) Educator Tony Corrie spends part of four days every week in a correctional facility. He likes being there because he is an Addiction Education and Recovery (AER) educator.  He teaches classes in the Tishomingo County Jail, the Lee County Jail and the Alcorn County Correctional Center.

     Two of his students are excited that they have just received their Certificates of Completion for a ten-hour course in addiction recovery.  Sarah Thompson and Shayna Stallard are currently residents in the Tishomingo County Jail.  They entered the classes voluntarily and are hopeful about their future with the progress they have made.

    Tony explained that other residents sometimes do not have time to complete the course program while in residence because they are sometimes only there for a very short period of time.  Many of these will continue classes at one of the FFFM centers after release, understanding that the completion certificate not only provides proof of commitment to recovery to judges, district attorneys or probation officers, but can also aid in securing employment and a better future.

     These classes are also taught by the AER team at Northeast MS Community College, Itawamba Community College, the Baptist Association Office and at the Family Resource Center in Fulton.  Some of these students in these locations are part of a diversion program through the court system.  This program is collaborative system between the judicial and associated agencies to reduce the number of incarcerations.  The aim is to replace confinement with a constructive recovery program to introduce and keep recovery strategies in place and keep people working to support their families and homes.

     Tony Corrie may be in “jail” but he is there because he cares.  He works with a whole team that cares. Dr. Collin Billingsley heads the AER and Kim Benefield is the assistant director.  They support a team of educators with plans to take the program statewide.  Currently, the addiction education portion includes education to the youth with team members teaching in schools and in youth organization groups.

    As a field educator, Tony provides life improvement education in several different areas.  He also teaches life skills:  parenting, conflict resolution, fatherhood and workforce development.         Families First for Mississippi is committed to addressing needs in the state.  Addiction education is one of those needs. 


FRC hosted the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition (MTFC) of Lee and Chickasaw Counties third quarterly meeting

    The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC) hosted the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition (MTFC) of Lee and Chickasaw Counties third quarterly meeting on February 3rd at the FRC office.  Members of this chapter of the coalition hailed from Lee County Schools, Lifecore, MSDH, Clergy, Magnolia Health, WTM along with a host of educators and staff from FRC.

     Shatara Agnew heads the initiative for FRC and, together with the support of the FRC members, hosted attendees with lunch from Bar-B-Q by Jim of Tupelo.   In addition to the expected agenda of event actions requested by MTFC from participants, Genette Robinson of MSDH Oral Health guided the guests through a presentation about cancer screening of the mouth and other oral health issues.

     Among the awareness updates discussed was the relationship of smoking and diabetes.  According to truthinitiative.org, smoking increases the risk of developing diabetes because it can change how a body processes and regulates sugar. Smoking can also make it harder to control blood sugar levels if one has diabetes. 

   The MTFCs are community-based coalitions that work to prevent the initiation of tobacco use among youth, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, promote tobacco cessation services, and eliminate tobacco-related disparities.

The coalitions partner with schools, faith-based and community service organizations, businesses, and a number of health advocacy organizations to provide education and resources to the communities that they serve, and provide assistance to Mississippi municipalities in working towards comprehensive smoke-free ordinances. 

   The coalition is sponsored by a grant from the Mississippi State Department of Health.


Tobacco Free Team talks at St. James Catholic Church

    Shatara Agnew with Field Educator Eddie Begonia were onsite St. James Greater Catholic Church on Wednesday, Feb. 13th on North Gloster St. in Tupelo. 

    Their presentation to approximately 100 assembled guests included:

  • Juul Presentation mainly to youth with some adults present. This presentation was about the dangers of the JUUL e-cigarettes.

  • Statistics in nationally:  More than 2 million middle school, high school, and college students are vaping. All JUUL pods carry a dangerous amount of nicotine with as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes. Nicotine is highly addictive and harms brain development in young adults. A lot of youth think this is just a harmless water vapor, but it is actually an aerosol containing chemicals known to cause cancer including Benzene, Acetone, Formaldehyde, Lead, and Arsenic. 

  • A resource table was set up with information on tobacco, secondhand smoke, and other useful information regarding tobacco and health.

  • After the presentation, a question and answer session resulted in many questions and seemed to indicate that these kids had been very misinformed/uninformed about the harmful effects of vaping.


Healthy Relationships Activities in Amory Reinforce Actions

To help develop skills to provide a healthy relationship, Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) offers classes and activities to foster stronger and healthier relations within families. There are also other classes that address healthy choices and relationships during dating.

Working with the Lifecore group in Amory, FFFM Field Educator Debbie Johnson orchestrated an activity demonstrating appropriate interactions and reinforced this with activities for the participants.


SMG Properties Reaches Out with Onsite Classes

Another event was at Bradford Manor in Bruce, MS.  Bradford Manor is a senior apartment complex owned by Southern Management Group.  Teresa Russell is the property manager. Amy Bratton provided light snacks and info about FF.  


Families First professionals on site were Debra Hood, Eldery and Aging Field Educator, Calhoun City Field Educators Renee Whitten and Patti Young, with Field Educator Amy Bratton.   All of the FRC employees talked to the residents about different topics that could be "covered" with them each month - like budgeting, stress management, healthy lifestyles, fire safety, etc.  Hood also told them about the fall prevention program she is working on getting started.  The residents were very excited and are looking forward to the FRC staff coming back!

One team of Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) is all about connecting with densely populated communities.  Amy Bratton and Janet Turman meet with residents of these communities to foster introductions to the services provided by FFFM.


This is all about letting residents know that, at no cost to the residents, FFFM wants to work with whole families to help them to reach personal goals and improved lives.


FFFM will “go to them” to teach literacy classes, financial management, workforce/job literacy, parenting and to offer opportunities to earn a high school diploma to those need this.  They are given information about the programs and the opportunity to sign up for that service that will best help them to reach their objectives.


During February, Bratton and Turner worked with Property Manager Linda Washington of the SMG (Southern Management Group) at three of the SMG properties:  Whispering Hope Apartments in Hollandale, MS; Twin Oaks and Mayersville properties in Mayersville, MS.


Pictured above are Amy Bratton (left) and Linda Washington (right).  Residents and children were offered treats for the palettes as information was shared and interests explored.


Davis and Ramsey address Youth Development Issues

   Families First for Mississippi Educators Semily Ramsey and Kiana Davis have been teaching Career Readiness classes at Tupelo High School. These are new classes offered through the Positive Youth Development program. They help students discover their skills and career options through assessments, create resumes, and conduct mock speed interviews. They are currently scheduling classes for March and onward!

   Pictured below are Families First for Mississippi Educators Semily Ramsey (right) and Kiana Davis (left)  at the Tupelo Career Technical Center where they taught Early Childhood Education and Law & Public Safety students.

Verona:  Families First Educator Kiana Davis was at Verona Elementary's Parent Night 
to speak about how to identify and prevent bullying behavior.


"ORANGE OUT" Focused on Awareness  and Prevention  to Teen Date Violence in Grenada


    Grenada Middle School celebrated “Orange Out” Day in recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness And Prevention Month.  There were over 400 students that participated, according to Tifany Reed, Positive Youth Development Educator for Families First for Mississippi. She said, “This was more than double the amount of students who participated last year.”

     The Mayor of the City of Grenada, Billy Collins, took time out of his day to present Families First and Grenada School District with a proclamation, proclaiming February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

     Student Advocates, Markeria Purnell and Caitlyn Leavy read the proclamation aloud, on behalf of the Mississippi Domestic Violence Coalition who traveled from Jackson to show their support. The students rallied and affirmed that “LOVE IS NOT ABUSE”   Other Grenada middle school students who spoke during the interview were Zachary Cooper and Madison Benson.

     Reed said she would like to thank Grenada Middle School Principals, Counselors and teachers for their dedication and commitment to our children. And she would like to thank her church, Covenant House for providing the “LOVE IS NOT ABUSE” t-shirts.


Grenada Youth Lock-in encourages youth to envision the future


    On February 2, Tifany Reed, Families First for Mississippi Field Educator, presented Internet Safety and The Law at the 2019 “Youth Lock-In” event recently held at the Transformation Community Center in Grenada. This was the 6th installment of the event that is spearheaded by Dmarkus Tidwell, along with help from Wayne Conley, Dalvin Taylor, Timothy Evans, Rico Coffey and Christy Black.

      Many Grenada natives, both far and near, donated money, sleeping bags, food, games, free haircuts and much more to this overnight Positive Youth Development event. Among some of the others speakers were Kierre “Fly Zone” Rimmer, Charles Latham of the 100 Black Men-Grenada Chapter and Shonna Tillman of #IAM, Inc. Event organizer, Lavaya Bledsoe said it best, “This event was bigger than any one person. It was about filling a space that society has created...a society that says to our children “they will be nothing."

     One of our main goals for this event is for our future leaders to know that they have people behind them, encouraging them to see themselves beyond where they are now!” 

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FRC Hernando hosted  a Special Education Boot Camp

On Saturday, February 9th, the Mississippi Parent Training and Information Center (MSPTI) hosted a Special Education Boot Camp at The Family Resource Center in Hernando, MS. The workshop aimed to help parents of children with disabilities better understand IEPs and advocate for the needs of their children. Topics included educational and behavior plans, conversations to have with teachers and school administrators, and the importance of parents as advocates not only for their children, but also for one another. For more information on the MSPTI, please visit www.mspti.org.


Pictured right  is MSPTI Assistant Director, Leslie Junkin, answering individual questions at the conclusion of the workshop. 


TUPELO: Hope Family Ministries was at The Family Resource Center in Tupelo for the quarterly coalition meeting.   Matt Wilburn, CEO and Kevin Wallace, Counselor, spoke about the counseling services they offer.  Several community agencies and organizations were also present and discussed their services as well.


Crafts in Itawamba County Assisted Living Residence

During the winter season of life, health or other limiting factors dictate that some seniors need to be relocated to assisted living resident or nursing homes.  For some, this may seem like the purpose for their lives is severely diminished.

Life needs purpose.  The Family Resource Center has some field educators who work with the director of activities in these centers to not only provide instruction in some areas but to offer activities that help promote positive self-images through crafts, especially crafts that are purposed for giving to others.

During the pre-Christmas season, Blakely Beggs orchestrated a Christmas ornament construction activity for residents of Charleston Place Assisted Living Facility.  About 15 residents were able to participate in the activity.


Charles Cain receives CDL License and is now active in the community workforce.

Homeless to employed in Tupelo, Cain worked to achieve personal success through FRC

Hannah Maharrey, FRC Professional, works in Homeless Prevention, as well as with the Tupelo-Lee County Hunger Coalition.  One special case from her annals is a story that deserves to be told.


Charles Cain came to her office as a homeless man.  He was seeking help in overcoming barriers to his moving forward in life.  Among the things needed to change his circumstances was a livable wage in a job in which he could take pride.

Hannah worked with him to make the needed changes and to identify his career interest.  He told her he wanted to be a cab driver and that requires a special driver’s license.


To help him get past his own transportation challenges, she personally drove him to take the test for the license.  Much to his dismay, he wasn’t able to pass it the first two times.  Hannah continued with him, encouraging him and driving him over the third time when he passed.


Perseverance and commitment to change paid off. He has been hired as the newest driver for a local taxi company and is excited to begin his career.


Morris goes on site to teach car seat safety in Tupelo

Pam Morris will be at the Walmart Supercenter located at 3928 N. Gloster in Tupelo on March 1st. She is setting up an information station to inform customers about child safety and properly installed car seats.


The Family Resource Center, with the help of a grant from Toyota, has been providing car seats and safety information to families for several years.  Pam Morris, the center’s car seat safety specialist, said many families may not understand how to appropriately install and use car seats for the protection of infants, toddlers and growing children.


Should the seat be facing forward or backward?  Is this different at different ages?  These are among the questions that she is prepared to answer to Walmart customers ready to learn more about how to ensure the safety of their children.


Pam Morris said many families without the means to purchase a new car seat for their child come in to the center for help. But, she said more often parents of newborn children are unable to leave the hospital because they don’t have a safety seat for the newborn.


She gets calls from North Mississippi Medical Center almost every week asking for a car seat so a newborn can go home.  “They can’t leave without one and many people can’t afford the seats,” Morris said. “There are so many wrecks that happen where children are killed because they’re not in car seats or the seat is improperly installed or out of date.”


Families who can’t afford car seats for their children can call (662) 844-0013 or go to the Family Resource Center on Magazine Street in Tupelo. The center gives out newborn and small child car seats as well as back booster seats for older children.   Morris said children need to have a car seat or booster seat until they are above 80 pounds.


Cleveland FRC received food pantry supplies

The Families First Resources Center of Bolivar County received non-perishable food items from St. Peter M. B. Church located in Sunflower, Mississippi.  The pastor is Rev. Jimmy Barnett. The donations were donated to the Families First of Bolivar County Food Pantry. 

Pictured left to right are Rev. Jimmy Barnett, Pastor  of St. Peter M. B. Church, Sunflower, MS, Pearlean Day, Regional Coordinator, Kierre Rimmer, Field Educator, Patricia Tate, Field educator and Henry Phillips, Education Coordinator  


Dine-In Event focused on Sanitation Workers

In commemoration of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Kierre Rimmer, Field Educator with Families First of Bolivar County coordinated free meals for sanitation workers in Bolivar County at the Senator's Place on 1/21.

Kierre dined in with over 16 sanitation workers employed by Resourceful Environmental Services.

In 1968, Dr. King campaigned for sanitation workers in Memphis to " get equal footing on the job."

This initiative has assisted Mr. Rimmer with the recruitment for the Fatherhood Initiative Program in Bolivar County. Workers are from several areas in Bolivar County.


FRC Fulton staff shares in success of client and friend

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Thirty-one classes and one year of sobriety earned Kevin Pounds a sobriety coin.  It also earned him the respect and affection of his educators and mentors at the Families First for Mississippi Center in Fulton.  Kevin completed classes at the center in Addiction Recovery, in Conflict Resolution and in Parenting. Regional Coordinator of the center, Buddy Collins, is as proud as punch of his accomplishments!


FRC Field Educator Michael Farrar instructed in Family Budgeting

During a Budgeting Workshop presented by Michael Farrar of Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) on January 10th at the Aberdeen Headstart, parents learned the principals of managing a family budget.


Farrar also provided information about the educational and other services provided by FFFM.  Sixteen adults were present for the training.


Life-changing decision to seek help in Philadelphia


   Tired and ready to accept help, a gentleman went to the Philadelphia Campus of Families First for Mississippi (FFFM).  He was on a mission for change and had already been to the Neshoba Department of Human Services, which referred him to FFFM.  Cody Clay of FFFM performed the normal intake assessment which is the first step when someone becomes a client.

   Just before this, a member of My Brother’s Keeper, a non-profit organization had stopped by to let FFFM know that the Christ-Centered Recovery in the Yazoo City was open and accepting residential recovery clients.   The timing was just right to serve this new client with a life-changing option.

   My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. (MBK) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reduce health disparities throughout the United States by enhancing the health and well-being of minority and marginalized populations through leadership in public and community health practices, collaboration and partnerships. Pastor Tommy is leading the Yazoo City Facility.

FFFM made immediate contact with MBK and Pastor Tommy did his interview and assessment with the man seeking help.  The man had one day to secure a position in the facility because it was rapidly filling up with acceptance on a first-come, first served basis.

   The client had a barrier of transportation so the FFFM staff stepped in and helped him to find a way to get there.  “We helped him get a few items he would need to get started on his new life changing journey such as personal hygiene products, a few clothing items from our clothes closet, and some snacks from our food pantry. We loaded up the car and took him to find new beginnings in Yazoo City. Since then we have called and checked in on him with Pastor Tommy and he is doing great!” Regional Coordinator Cassie Henderson commented.


FRC Hernando and Excel by 5 team up in reading program

    The Family Resource Center in Hernando teamed up with their local Excel By 5 Community and the First Regional Library to host the Prime Time Family Reading Program for five lucky families. The Reading Program was a six-week event that invited the participating families to come share in fun and playful reading activities.

     Each week, the families would come together to share dinner, meet guest speakers, and read along with Drs. Rebecca Jernigan and Elaine Gelbard. Drs. Jernigan and Gelbard did more than just read to the children, they brought the stories to life by inviting the families to act out the story line, dance to rhythms, and imitate different characters including Abiyoyo, a wicked giant who had slobbery teeth and stinking feet! The children had a blast and claimed their favorite part was getting to act out the stories not just at the program, but also at home. The parents claimed the reading program improved the children's abilities to process the plot and characters of each story and helped them have a greater appreciation of books and stories. One parent even reported that she could see her daughter's imagination flare each time they'd bring out a new book!

    This Prime Time Family Reading Program was a pilot program for Hernando, MS made possible by the Mississippi Humanities Council. The MS Humanities Council provided books for each child so that each week the families could take home three new books to read. If you are interested in participating in this program next year, please contact Abby McDonald at 662-912-5900 or by emailing amcdonald@frcnms.org.


Columbus Events since beginning of year......

NLRO Meet & Greet in Columbus

FRC Columbus had a NLRO Meet and Greet.  Invited were individuals and agencies from the community, as well as former students, (now graduates).


Guests were informed participants about the NLRO program, and were introduced to all the other educational programs FRC offers to them and their families. Refreshments to all participants. 


Oral Health Fair

    FRC Columbus hosted an Oral Health Fair, that focused on teaching youth how to maintain Healthy Oral Health. 

     Three Educators came and presented to 3 groups of Head start students. There was over 130 students on campus for this event. Among those Educators was Gennette Robinson, MS Dept. Of Oral Health, Jan Bryan, from Magnolia Health, and Yolanda Pruitt, from MS Tobacco Free.

    Each participant was given a free tooth brush and toothpaste, courtesy of the Dept. Of Oral Health. Each participant also received free Oral Health related book courtesy of Magnolia Health, along with a free coloring pack from MS Tobacco Free Coalition. 


Feb. NLRO graduate: Cameron Harrell.

Fatherhood Class Designed to Strengthen Families

FRC Columbus brought together a group of fathers for a "Grilling with Dad" event. Not only were bonds strengthened by  the  fun activity but the event moved to the classroom.  The fathers and children learned about treating themselves, others and the environment with respect and dignity..  Caring and compassion form the underlying structure of the values that were taught in the class.

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FRC Clients are interviewed by WTVA about how FRC has helped change or improve their lives

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Teamwork is the key to the success in any organization.  The Family Resource Center (FRC) understands this and that is why they “partner” with so many other groups.  The premise is that they do not compete with others who offer the same services but work to expand the services of others. And, they strive to bridge gaps in services that are not readily available in the communities served.  When this is two-way street between organizations, the whole community stands to benefit.

In the news this month is FRC’s relationship with United Way.  A quick look at their worldwide website will show that their three objectives are the same as those of FRC:  education, income and health.  The mix and partnership could not be more optimum.   While their scope is worldwide, FRC is working to achieve success in these objectives in Mississippi.

 FRC is a non-profit organization, co-managing the Families First for Mississippi program, providing several programs that fall within these pillars: education, parenting, youth, and job readiness. There are also programs addressing drug addiction recovery, poverty with related issues of hunger and homelessness and other programs.  The mix and partnership of FRC and United Way could not be better.

During the month of January, the United Way campaign in North Mississippi is for the 50K Giveaway.  They are selling 3000 tickets at $100 each, with all the donors being entered into the 50K drawing that will be held on Valentines Day. All the proceeds from this campaign benefit United Way North Mississippi programs and to help organizations, like FRC, that support local communities.  In fact, United Way has historically granted funds to FRC to support their community programs.

This history was the foundation for interviews WTVA television conducted with FRC clients mid-January.  The clients spoke about how they had benefited from FRC services and the impact on their lives from these. One of these clients received a bed for her son through the Beds for Kids program.  A roof leak in her home resulted in mold in the home and she had to relocate and wasn’t able to take furniture (beds) that had mold and didn’t have ready funds for new beds.   Another was about a client who studied in the ESOL program so that she could get her citizenship.

There are so many stories about how life throws curve balls and puts families in hard circumstances.  Sometimes, the stories revolve around a parent losing a job or an injury that prevented the bread-winner from being able to work or an unexpected teen pregnancy or many different life events that cause us to change the direction of our pathway.  Whatever the reason, FRC’s mission is to help families recover from these disruptions and to get back on track to success in education, in job readiness, in parenting skills, in life skills in general.

It is through the collaboration, partnerships and grants from our community-family that FRC is able to provide a hand up when one of us needs it.  With gratitude to United Way, WTVA and all the other community family members, we want to vigorously support the United 50K Giveaway which will not only provide a generous prize to one donor but will provide for members of our community.


FAST Stroke Response and Prevention Class Taught in by FRC Field Educators


  Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.  Almost 800,000 people each year will have a stroke.  That is the bad news.  The good news is that many strokes are preventable and there are steps that can be taken to lower our chances for having a stroke.   This is exactly the message Families First for Mississippi in Philadelphia is taking to the community Monday, January 28th.  The program will take place at the Families First Center located at 180 Canal Place, Philadelphia.


FAST addresses the warning signs but also provides ways to limit risks before a stroke occurs.  “F” stands for face drooping. “A” stands for arm weakness. “S” stands for speech difficulty and “T” stands for Time to call 911.  Knowing how to recognize these signs and what action to take is important when a stroke occurs because immediate action can prevent additional brain loss.  “Every minute counts” is part of the message that will be covered during the program.


In addition to action needed during a stoke, there are preventative steps to avoid a stroke. Among these steps, according to the American Heart Association, are Life’s Simple 7 are: not-smoking, physical activity, healthy diet, body weight, and control of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. As with all illnesses and health issues, there are additional factors to be considered and these steps should be taken only under a doctor’s care.


Families First for Mississippi is a program of services jointly provided by The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi and by the Mississippi Community Education Center.  Services include education to the community about life style choices and health impacts.   Other services include addiction recovery, workforce and job readiness, literacy and healthy youth development. 

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VERONA:   Toyota Family Learning parents got February kicked off with learning how to cook healthier for their families! Tabitha McRunnels from MS State Extension Services educated the class on how to make cooking a family bonding time, and adding colorful fruits and vegetables to every meal!   The class prepared a delicious chicken stir fry!!   Toyota Family Learning meets on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Verona Head Start.

Nutritional needs are part of Addiction Recovery and is part of addressing Whole System

Education and Recovery


Addiction often brings other problems to the table, including poor nutrition.  Part of education and recovery from any addiction is to learn what health issues may have contributed to the addiction and how proper nutrition might be vital to full recovery from addiction.


Some resulting problems from addiction can sometimes include liver disease, diabetes, seizure and general malnutrition.  Some become obese; others may become very underweight. Damage may have been done to some of the body systems and organs.  In fact, addiction and poor nutrition sometimes foster conditions that impede the recovery of addicts unless the whole person (whole system) is assessed and needed treatment prescribed to each of the affected areas.


Just as a patient who has renal failure will have taboo foods they should not eat, those recovering from addictions may have systems that need higher or lower quantities of different foods, or food in certain combinations.   Those with diabetes will need a very different menu and schedule for consumption


Under the care of the addiction specialists at Families First for Mississippi (FFFM), an assessment of a client discovers telltale signs that indicate that care could be needed in areas which may not initially appear to be directly related to the addiction, one of which is nutrition.  Because interrelationships of addiction may impact several systems, all should be addressed to reach the optimum result of “in recovery” and “good health.” 


That is the foundation for the operational structure for the Addiction Education and Recovery program at FFFM, meaning their system includes a strong network with other care-givers with specialties in many areas that provide a collaborative effort for full recovery.  This network includes connections and referrals with those who can prescribe the correct diet to help restore the client to best health.  This is why the Addiction Professionals at FFFM will not only provide materials about eating right but also recommend the clients to a nutritionist or doctor of the client’s choice.

FFFM operates in the whole system mode, not just in the Addiction Education and Recovery Program, but in all their programs.  The Gen+ approach pervades the development and implementation of all FFFM programs.  For example, the Youth Development Program not only encompasses the young person in question but extends to the whole family.  PACT (Parents and Children Together) incorporates family interaction during literacy exercises, during community outings, in language classes, and in family life skills presentations.


Borrowing from a well-used cliché, FFFM is focused on being one team with their clients, their families, their communities and their states.  The philosophy is that we impact each other and that impact can swell to cover the state to improve educational success rates, economic development and improvement, reduction in teenaged pregnancies, recovery from addiction and elimination of hunger and homelessness.  The staff is not just a team of big dreamers but, in reality, a team of innovators and professionals who love their neighbors and who are committed to providing the most comprehensive array of services that can address as many needs as possible, starting with what they are eating.


Messages Family Resource gets from their clients

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MEMA Assessment as of February 24th; Assessment continuing; Does not include Lowndes County


Initial damage reports by county (assessments ongoing):

  • Alcorn: Assessments ongoing

  • Calhoun: 54 homes and 20 roads damaged.

  • Carroll: Assessments ongoing

  • Chickasaw: One home and 14 roads damaged.

  • Clarke: Homes damaged, three businesses and two roads damaged.

  • Clay: 69 homes and 12 roads

  • Coahoma: Assessments delayed due to flooding

  • Grenada: 100 homes and 22 businesses damaged. Six roads damaged.

  • Humphreys: Assessments delayed due to flooding

  • Issaquena: One home and five roads damaged.

  • Itawamba: 41 roads damaged.

  • Lafayette: Assessments ongoing

  • Lee: 60 homes damaged; some roads inaccessible.

  • Lincoln: One home damaged; Roads damaged or inaccessible.

  • Lowndes: NWS Jackson confirmed tornado; awaiting damage reports from the county; widespread power outages. Multiple injuries reported. MEMA Personnel have been deployed to the city of Columbus for initial damage assessments.

  • Madison: Assessments ongoing

  • Monroe: Assessments ongoing

  • Montgomery: Assessments ongoing

  • Noxubee: One home damaged

  • Pontotoc: Assessments ongoing

  • Prentiss: 34 roads damaged

  • Quitman: Assessments ongoing

  • Rankin: One home damaged.

  • Sharkey: Three homes and four roads damaged.

  • Simpson: One business damaged.

  • Smith: Six roads and three bridges damaged.

  • Sunflower: Homes and roads damaged or inaccessible.

  • Tallahatchie: 35 homes and 29 roads damaged.

  • Tishomingo: NWS Memphis Confirmed tornado; two homes and 22 roads damaged; two bridges damaged

  • Tunica: Three roads damaged

  • Union: Assessments ongoing

  • Warren: Assessments ongoing

  • Washington: Assessments ongoing

  • Webster: Two homes and multiple roads damaged.

  • Yalobusha: Assessments ongoing

  • Yazoo: Assessments ongoing

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