GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – The United Way of Jackson and George Counties held one of its annual campaign kickoffs Thursday, seeking to raise $2 million towards its mission by year’s end.

It was the first time in close to two decades the organization has hosted a campaign kick-off in George County as it continues to expand services and relationships with other agencies in the area.

United Way’s mission centers on improving education, financial stability and health in the community. One agency they partner with is Singing River Educational Association (SREA), with Head Start locations in Basin and Benndale.

SREA Executive Director Tanya Beech shared that United Way has reliably assisted the people in their program during emergency times of need like when a family lost a parent during the holiday season.

“My Head Start community knows – employees, parents, children – that if there is a need, we can call and they’ll say we will do what we can do,” Beech said. “And what they can’t do, they don’t just say ‘no we can’t help you.’ They say ‘here’s another resource you can use.’”

Member agency Health & Prescription Services served over 1,000 people in George and Jackson counties with purchasing prescriptions and medical supplies in 2021.

Executive Director Shelia Robertson shared the story of one client, Bob. His sister in George Co. called to get help for Bob. She was ready to give up on and stop communicating with him if he didn’t receive help with a drug addiction and mental health needs.

Through conversations with Bob, Robertson determined he qualified for the non-profit’s services and referrals to other healthcare providers.

“We were able to help out with his medication for several months. And in doing so, Bob is now sober. Bob is on Medicaid. Bob has gotten the help that he needs. And now Bob and his sister have mended their relationship,” Robertson said.

United Way is funded mostly by contributions from individuals and businesses either from corporate sponsorship or employees opting for a payroll deduction. Staff or campaign committee members will present to an array of groups and employers by the end of the year. Donations can be specified for a specific cause or member agency.

In George Co. in 2021, United Way:

  • Provided Love Thy Neighbor Ministries with Wayne Lee’s gift cards so they could purchase needed items for their food pantry. 
  • Sponsored Boy Scouts to attend summer camp.
  • Partnered with the George County Regional Health System Foundation to provide free treatment to survivors of the Highway 26 washout after Hurricane Ida.
  • Created a working group in the county to gauge unmet needs like homelessness and deploy resources to assist.

“You have no idea the amount of need that’s in George County,” Robertson said. “It’s your co-workers. It’s the person that bags your groceries. It’s the person that brings you your plate at lunch. It’s the person sitting next to you in church…The donations that you provide, are being put to good use.”

Other United Way member agencies serving George County include:

  • Adrienne’s House – A shelter for victims of domestic violence
  • American Red Cross of Southeast MS – Emergency financial assistance to survivors of house fires and natural disasters, case services to military families, free first aid/CPR classes and blood drive organizing
  • Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts – Outdoor and STEM education, community service opportunities and leadership development skills to youth
  • Catholic Charities of South MS – Case management and resources for disaster relief, food security, housing, immigration and utility assistance
  • Gulf Coast Family Counseling – Provided 6,195 counseling sessions by five therapists in 2021
  • Home of Grace – Faith-based addiction recovery program
  • CASA of Southeast MS – Advocates for abused and neglected children in state custody
  • PROMISS – Maternity resources like parenting classes, infant care items, pregnancy tests and ultrasounds from Hope is Alive in Lucedale
  • Rape Crisis Program – Crisis response and counseling for victims of sexual assault
  • Singing River Services – Employment opportunities, life skills lessons, and care for people with special needs
  • The Salvation Army – Food and clothing distribution, emergency aid and Christmas toy distribution for families in need

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