An Oktibbeha County nonprofit dished out nearly $30,000 in grants to local programs aimed at helping county citizens Wednesday.
Starkville-Oktibbeha Achieving Results (SOAR) gathered representatives from seven organizations at the Hilton Garden Inn in Starkville Wednesday to make its official presentations, although many of the grants have already been distributed.
East Mississippi Community College and Oktibbeha Starkville Emergency Response Volunteer Service (OSERVS) were the biggest winners, receiving $10,000 apiece.
The money earmarked for EMCC will be added to $30,000 in existing funds in the Oktibbeha Tuition Guarantee program, which covers two years of tuition for any graduate of Oktibbeha County high schools.
EMCC President Dr. Rick Young was on hand to accept the grant on behalf of the school. Young said 30 current EMCC students are taking advantage of Tuition Guarantee, but couldn”t put an exact figure on the number of Oktibbeha students to receive tuition since the program”s inception. However, he did say the number of students attracted by the Tuition Guarantee program is likely much higher than the number who have actually needed it.
“Many students come in motivated by the Tuition Guarantee, but once they apply for admission and all financial aid, a lot of these students get a full ride through a Pell grant or through institutional scholarships. You may have touched 100 students with Tuition Guarantee, but out of that 100 you may have 30 who need us to plug that gap,” said Young.
The existing $30,000 for Oktibbeha Tuition Guarantee, to which SOAR”s $10,000 will be added, was raised by various local groups such as the Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club. The fund is held and distributed by the CREATE Foundation, SOAR”s parent organization.
The $10,000 headed to OSERVS will also be multiplied as seed money for a 1-to-1 matching grant. The resulting $20,000 will allow OSERVS to continue it”s community assistance. The agency assists with myriad community and individual emergencies and has recently done extensive work in tornado-battered Webster and Monroe Counties.
“All our workers are volunteers and there are no salaries, so all the money goes to the people,” explained OSERVS Director Becky Wilkes.
A $5,000 SOAR grant will also be used as seed money by the Starkville/MSU Symphony.
Symphony Director Dr. Robert Phillips said the total $10,000 will fund the symphony”s Oct. 28 performance for 300 Oktibbeha County kindergarten-through-fifth graders, as well as additional performances.
“For a lot of these kids, this is probably the only time they will ever see a live, full orchestra,” said Phillips.
Joan Butler, director of Family Centered Programs for the Starkville School District, accepted $1,582 from SOAR, which is already in action funding summer camps.
Ross Williams, officer of compulsory attendance for the Mississippi Department of Education, accepted a $1,300 grant on behalf of an adult GED program also administered through the Starkville School District”s Family Centered Programs.
Brother Larnzy Carpenter accepted $1,000 for the Family First Resource Center and Jim McKell, president of the Oktibbeha County Master Gardners, accepted $1,000 which funded the planting of approximately 40,000 daffodils, tulips and hyacinths around Starkville.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.