Service to Others Bring Meaning | FamiliesFirst for MS

*For Immediate Release*


Service to Others Brings Meaning to the Christmas Season

Families First for Mississippi staff participated in a wide array of meaningful opportunities to serve the community in cities throughout Mississippi and highlighted below are just a portion of ways that our staff chose to honor the true meaning of the Christmas season by serving others.

By Jenny Cox Holman

The holiday season stirs memories of festive family gatherings, meaningful Christmas celebrations and gifts wrapped in tinsel. Christmas music fills the air and holiday parties abound while friends and family gather together for fellowship and favorite holiday meals. During the holiday season and behind the twinkling Christmas lights and days filled with merrymaking and joy, suffering is amplified. Suffering has many faces and the burdens of life that people shoulder seem almost unbearable during a season that is known for joy and happiness.


Imagine walking the streets with no place to call home, judged wrongly by those in cars passing by, regarded simply as homeless and that “only reckless decisions must have brought on this fate.”


As families gather for the holidays in homes of the wealthy and poor alike, there are those silently suffering from an addiction. They wonder how to find hope from the suffocating grip of their addiction without feeling embarrassed to let down those they love.  


As Christmas shoppers fill stores, there are mothers and fathers who do not have enough money to feed their precious families or have money left over for presents for their little ones. The emotional anguish as they think about their children on Christmas morning, coupled with the physical exhaustion of working long and late hours, is a heavy burden to bear.


The homebound and those in nursing homes sit alone in deafening silence in rooms that only magnify their loneliness as they think of days gone by when holidays were celebrated in the company of those they love.


Suffering truly comes in seasons, just as the Christmas season greets us every year. No one knows when they will find themselves in a season of suffering; and difficult days are more profound as the world around is filled with the Christmas spirit. Families First for Mississippi desires to provide tangible ways to ease suffering and offer hope and healing during the Christmas season. For the month of December, “Giving Back” is the unified effort of Families First for Mississippi with a mission to use resources and volunteer opportunities to impact multi-generational Mississippians across the state.


Families First for Mississippi staff participated in a wide array of meaningful opportunities to serve the community in cities throughout Mississippi and highlighted below are just a portion of ways that our staff chose to honor the true meaning of the Christmas season by serving others.


Jackson – In the Jackson, Mississippi metro area, Families First for Mississippi partnered with The Salvation Army, Richard Schwartz & Associates, P.A, and WAPT for Coats for Kids campaign to host drop off locations at Families First Resource Centers and provide children’s coats to needy families in Mississippi. As an avenue to bring Christmas cheer to children at Batson Children’s Hospital, all Jackson area Families First Resource Centers collected new books for the hospital’s toy drive.


To meet the tangible, physical needs of those in the community, Families First employees teamed up with Gateway Rescue Mission, Catholic Charities and The Friendship Connection to serve meals to Jackson’s homeless population and men and women in drug recovery. To help with sustaining the journey of recovery and sobriety, Families First for Mississippi teaches classes in conjunction with Catholic Charities and The Friendship Connection residents to help equip life skills for success.


Brookhaven – To create holiday cheer and excitement for the Christmas season, Families First for Mississippi staff assisted children in local schools with writing personalized letters to Santa.


Canton - Families First hosted a toiletry drive to benefit Crossroads Ministries. Crossroads Ministries is a non-profit organization with a mission to help heal women who have come from hard places from prison, abuse and addiction and looks to provide a safe home where women can begin the healing process. 


Clarksdale – Sunshine Baptist Church hosted an end of the year celebration and Families First Regional Coordinator, Carolyn Quinn, participated by reading stories and helping with Christmas gift bags for toddlers who are a part of the Little Sunshine Daycare Storytime Literacy Program.


Columbus – The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC) and Columbus Fire Department provided education and resources for car seat safety.


Crystal Springs - Staff members spent time reading Christmas stories to a local shelter and served and prepared food for families in need.


Greenwood - For the Greenwood area, Families First for Mississippi delivered toys to the Greenwood Leflore Hospital children’s ward, volunteered at the Greenwood Community Kitchen, participated in a winter coat drive, visited local nursing homes with Christmas gifts and activities, volunteered for The Salvation Army’s bell ringing program, and hosted a foster care Christmas party for those in foster families with their local DHS at the Families First Resource Center in Greenwood.


The Greenwood Families First Resource Center Coordinator Natalie McLellan said, “Giving back is something we all should include not only during this time of the year, but also in our daily lives. We are all blessed with talents to be shared and using our talents and time is part of giving back.”


Hattiesburg - Families First for Mississippi partnered with The Nobles Foundation and Kuntry Kidz to host the 2018 Hometown Heroes Toy Drive to benefit Homes of Hope for Children. In addition to providing toys for Homes of Hope for Children, they provided a list of children and their wish list and staff members of Families and their significant others provided toys and Christmas for all 23 kids.


Elisha Barnes-Booth, Families First Center Coordinator, said “Giving back begins with an attitude of gratitude. We live in a country where we are blessed with the opportunity to have and give on different levels, whether that is a smile, a hug, toys or clothing. For me giving back is equal to serving and loving our neighbor, which is our primary purpose on earth.”


Hernando – The Family Resource Center DeSoto County Campuses have specifically trained and certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians that can teach caregivers how to make sure their children stay safe in and around vehicles. Families First received 150 new car seats through a partnership with Mississippi Department of Health and will be shared with families in need who have taken the child safety course.


Hernando Middle School students donated over 18 cases of food to help feed families during the holiday season. Hernando Middle School Teacher, Lindsey Jones, reached out to the Hernando Campus after seeing their success from the Thanksgiving Food Drive.


Abby McDonald, Regional Coordinator, said, “It’s so great to see others from the community recognize this need and put forth the effort to help give to others so that they too can move forward.”


Meridian - Families First participated in a Christmas parade, served food at a local soup kitchen and hosted Cookies with Santa, a community event to generate awareness about local programs Families First offers to the Meridian community. Families First staff will also be serving food at the local soup kitchen. 

Natchez –Over 200 people were served at a local soup kitchen. Staff members also went to local schools and assisted students in writing letters to Santa.


Oxford – The Oxford FRC office contributed to the annual Book and Bears holiday program at Ole Miss. Toys, books, and stuffed animals were collected by FRC Oxford staff, coordinated by Hallie Goodson and Hunter Grissom. The results of the effort were taken to the campus by FRC staff members Tommy Parker and Dr. Debra Moore.


Philadelphia – The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi food pantry provided meals and provisions during the holidays and throughout the year as needed by the local community.


Tupelo – Dr. Collin Billingsley, Addiction Education Director and Kim Benefield, Addiction Program Assistant Director, spoke on SuperTalk 95.9 FM to talk about addiction recovery services offered by Families First for Mississippi. Also, the Toyota Family Learning Program participants through Families First for Mississippi delivered sack meals to Tree of Life Clinic, which provides medical and dental services to families in need.


In connection with Disney on Ice and Mississippi Radio Group, staff members with FRC contributed to donations of over 275 coats and were organized by staff members into sizes for United Way and The Salvation Army.


The Family Resource Center of North Mississippi joined in the festivities of the Tupelo Christmas parade and supported the community by participating in the parade for distribution of candy to hundreds of local children. Families First for Mississippi through support from the Toyota Learning Center hosted a “Polar Express” event for children and parents to educate families about healthy and economical ways to have fun during the Christmas season.


Jeff Finch of FRC in Tupelo, Mississippi, said, “I am reminded of a quote from Ben Carson when I think of giving back - ‘Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give.’”


Tishomingo – Iuka Library and FRC hosted a Christmas Extravaganza with the reading of Christmas books, scavenger hunts, face painting, snacks and door prizes. Positive Youth Development students assisted with the event as well as several parents as a PACT time event with their children.


Vicksburg – In Vicksburg, Families First for Mississippi supported The Salvation Army Angel Tree program to provide Christmas to children ages 12 and under and adults ages 60 and up. On Christmas afternoon, Families First will serve desserts in the residential program at River City Rescue Mission. River City Rescue Mission in-care facility intended to help men in their attempts to re-enter society after a time of healing and building of faith.

© FFFM is a service provided by Mississippi Community Education Center & Family Resource Center of North Mississippi

Mississippi Community Education Center

2525 Lakeward Dr. Suite 200

Jackson, Mississippi 39216

O: (601) 366-6405

Family Resource Center of North Mississippi

425 Magazine St.

Tupelo, MS 38804

O: (662) 844-0013

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Families First For Mississippi does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, sex, disability, veteran status, political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, or age in the administration of any of its programs or in the employment of any staff.