Reading at the Park: Making a Difference One Book at a Time

Reading at the Park: Making a Difference One Book at a Time

Reading is an essential part of learning, especially for children. However, in Mississippi, families may find it difficult to access the resources they need to prepare their children for school. That’s where community initiatives like Reading at the Park come into play. 

Founded with a mission toward education, Reading at the Park (RAP) serves to improve literacy and educational outcomes for Mississippi children by increasing access to books for local communities. Read on to learn more! 

The Need

A 2019 study conducted by the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), found that 63% of kindergarten students in the state are below the Kindergarten Readiness Benchmark (AKA: K-Readiness) for reading comprehension and literacy. Meeting this requirement not only suggests that children are ready for kindergarten, but also that they are well-equipped to meet fundamental educational benchmarks through Grade 3. 

The requirements for the K-Readiness Benchmark include a 70% “mastery of knowledge and skills in early literacy and numeracy” and is correlated with a score of 530 out of 900. In 2019, the average K-Readiness Assessment score in Mississippi was 502, representing a huge need for increased access to early learning programs and resources for reading comprehension and literacy across the state. 

The Disparity

Mississippi is considered a “book desert” or a region that has poor access to reading materials. Data aggregated from United Books, suggests that only 19% of homes in Mississippi have an adequate number of books for early learning. Having a well-stocked library at home has been proven to benefit children in several ways. Children who grow up with books are more likely to have higher literacy and numeracy skills, as well as become life-long learners. 

Reading at the Park 

Corrine Hegwood and Rev. Les Hegwood, during his time as an educator prior to becoming an Episcopal priest, became aware of the severity of Mississippi’s low reading comprehension while teaching. 

Before her family settled in Cleveland, Corrine Hegwood worked in many different school districts as a speech language pathologist. She noticed that in every class less than 25% of her students were reading at their grade level. 

“Many of the kids entering kindergarten in Mississippi are not ready for kindergarten,” said Corrine. “There is a significant word gap among children that don’t have access to books and that needs to be addressed.”

Rev. Les said his time as a highschool educator and Mississippi Teacher Corps Fellow really opened his eyes to educational deficits that exist in Mississippi. 

“I brought my experience with me into ministry as well. Educational equity, access to resources, and advocating for those things and creating programs that meet those needs has been part of our work for a long time,” said Les.

Inspired to make a change, Corrine and Rev. Les Hegwood, along with Margaret Katembe, from Delta State Library and Kierre Rimmer, CEO and founder of FLYZone, founded Reading at the Park (RAP) as a way of increasing literacy in their community. 

“Reading at the Park is what it sounds like. We go to different parks in Cleveland and in the Delta. We go to where the kids are, somewhere central to their community, where they can walk around, and we read,” said Rev. Les.

Reading events are completely free and include food and drinks for children to enjoy while they read or are read to. Kids can select up to three books before finding a place to read with their parents. RAP offers a wide variety of books with reading levels ranging from Pre-K to Grade 12. However, books aren’t arranged according to reading level, in order to make them more accessible to families. 

“We don’t want to assume. We’re serving a community and we want to honor that there is a diversity of abilities and that it’s accessible to all that come to engage with it,” said Rev.Les.

Since its founding, RAP has helped over 400 children and has shared nearly 1,600 books. With the help of their partners, Corrine and Rev. Les Hegwood have been able to expand their work outside of Cleveland. They have focused mainly on improving conditions in the Mississippi Delta, where access to educational materials, even in schools, is limited.

“We couldn’t be doing this without our partners. They’ve been a key component to our work and in our ability to connect to communities and expand our service area,” said Les. 

Their most recent event took place in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where they shared books with children at the Spring Initiative, a tutoring program based in the city. Looking ahead, Corrine and Rev. Les hope to teach more communities and parishes how to “RAP” and plan on hosting events next month in Rosedale, Mississippi. They continue to be inspired by the community’s support and positive response to RAP and are making plans to purchase a vehicle to replace their “Book It” golf cart in order to make longer trips around the state. 

“It’s been wonderful to see the community rally around Reading at the Park,” said Les, “There’s a lot of love for this community and hope. Reading at the Park, and other programs like it, allow people from very different backgrounds to come together around common, pure purposes. Things that we can all agree need our attention, our time, and our resources.”

Learn More

Initiatives like Reading at the Park show how impactful community engagement can be at improving outcomes for Mississippi communities. Click here to learn more about Reading at the Park and be sure to follow them on Facebook to get updates on their events. You can also show your support by sending a donation to help RAP expand their booklist. 
Have a success story of your own? Send it to us! Visit to get started.

Jackson State University is meeting the needs of the community one food box at a time

Jackson State University is meeting the needs of the community one food box at a time

On Saturday, April 17, 2021, Members of the Jackson-Hinds community drive-by the Blackburn Middle School parking lot to receive a bag of non-perishable items donated by multiple organizations. A total of 1500 food bags were given away, all donated by TDC Premier Trucking LLC, an affiliate of Amazon and HOSEA.

Major institutions within Mississippi communities have a role to play in helping to create our culture of health, and Jackson State University is working to meet the needs of the community one food box at a time. 

The Office of Community Engagement is the liaison between Jackson State University and the surrounding community. Their work focuses on meeting community needs, ranging from assistance with information dissemination to a community garden. 

Meeting the Needs of the Community

Over the past five years, Jackson State University has been developing strategies to help with access to fresh produce and fresh food for metro Jackson residents.

They started the JSU Blackburn Learning Garden five years ago, and, along with Blackburn Middle School students, have since grown a variety of vegetables that are distributed to the community for free. 

With the help of their partners, JSU also hosts a Crop Drop a few times a year, where they hand out 50,000 lbs of produce grown from farmers across the state. They serve between 500 to 1,000 people. 

“We’ve seen many residents come to us looking for fresh produce, so we do these events to try to offset some of their grocery bills. Given the pandemic and the water crisis that’s been happening in our city, there has been a lot more need. With students learning virtually, and parents being at home and having to provide 3 meals a day plus snacks, it’s really been a strain on our community,” said Heather Denné, Director of Community Engagement of the Center for University-Based Development at Jackson State University.

Last year, they tripled the amount of food box giveaways and Crop Drop events. In April, they were able to give out a whole semi-truck full of produce and non-perishable items, helping over 1,500 people. The giveaway was supported by the TDC Premier Trucking, LLC, HOSEA, Amazon, Society of St. Andrew, Continental Tires and the People’s Advocacy Institute.

At April’s food distribution, JSU also handed out children’s books. JSU partnered with the Little Free Library organization and built 5 libraries throughout West Jackson. However, since the start of the pandemic, the libraries have been harder to access, so they decided to give books away at the Crop Drop. 

Creating a culture of health for Jackson families

“We’re always thinking about sustainability and making sure that these things make an impact long term. Specifically with our garden project, we are teaching our folks about how to grow their own produce,” said Denné. 

After the produce is grown, JSU works to engage the entire family with interactive projects that focus on healthy eating. They hold a student-led farmer’s market, as well as an annual greens cookoff. 

“We want to teach families about healthier ways they can sustain their family if they don’t have access to a grocery store that readily sells fresh produce and vegetables,” said Denné.


With events like the Crop Drop and their Learning Garden, Jackson State University hopes to teach the local community about healthy eating. Teaching children and families about growing your own produce is a lifelong skill that will lead to healthy eating! 

For any organization that hosts services, it’s important to ask the question: how can our organization teach the recipients the thinking behind these services that we offer, so they can learn to do it on their own for years to come?
Jackson State University is planning on hosting another distribution event in October. Stay tuned on their social media and website for more information.

Brain Injury Association of Mississippi is providing support & spreading awareness

Brain Injury Association of Mississippi is providing support & spreading awareness

The Brain Injury Association (BIA) of Mississippi provides information, support, and resources to people with brain and spinal cord injuries, as well as their families, while also teaching the general public about injury prevention programs.

Mississippi is 3rd in the country in the number of brain injuries reported each year. Brain injuries are primarily caused by falls and motor vehicle accidents. Now, in its 30th year of service, the BIA of Mississippi is the only nonprofit in our state specifically assisting traumatic brain and/or spinal cord injury survivors, both civilian and military, and their families. 

Online Support Groups

One of the main services that the BIA of Mississippi provides is support for people living with a brain injury. Before COVID, they had three different support groups around the state, but when everything closed down, they immediately switched to virtual support programs.

“We combined our three support groups into one big virtual support group. We’ve reached people that are in areas in the state that probably would never have gone to an in-person meeting, just because they’re out in a rural area or they’re too far away. We have 92 people in our virtual support groups,” said Lee Moss, Executive Director of BIA of Mississippi.

During the support group meetings, the BIA of Mississippi also provides other virtual opportunities for enrichment, like yoga, cooking nights, and meditation sessions.

“We do these activities because these are things that some of the members have never done before, and, with meditation in particular, it’s really helped them learn how to better be calm while being isolated,” said Moss.

Garnering Support with Fundraising Events

The BIA of Mississippi has three annual fundraising events.

Dash ‘N Splash is a race held every June, with walk, run, and wheelchair categories. The race ends by the Reservoir in Ridgeland with activities like water slides and balloons, and snacks like watermelon. This year, the BIA of Mississippi plans for an in-person race on June 26, 2021.

The “Salute to Our Heroes” Virtual Drawdown typically consists of an in-person drawdown and gala, but last year they switched to a virtual event due to COVID-19. The event had such a good virtual turnout that they decided to keep it online again this year.

The NogginFeast: A Celebration for the Brain is one of the Brain Injury Association of Mississippi’s most popular fundraiser events, held at the Renaissance in Madison. In its third year, NogginFeast consists of  20-30 local food and liquor vendors and live entertainment. This year’s NogginFeast will take place on October 25, 2021, and tickets can be purchased at the door. Brain injury survivors and their families can attend the event at no cost.

Sharing Information and Resources During Brain Injury Awareness Month

Normally, BIA of Mississippi celebrates Brain Injury Awareness Day on March 11 every year at the Capital, but this year they commemorated the day virtually. Throughout the day, they used Facebook to share videos in which brain injury survivors told their stories.

Throughout the month of March, BIA of Mississippi shared resources and statistics about brain injury awareness and prevention on their social media.

“We had to come up with something since we couldn’t be in-person, and, honestly, I feel like we reached more people this way than we would have at the Capital. We wanted to help people learn everything they need to know about brain injury through a virtual platform. In the process, we’ve even found some new survivors that needed help, and they previously didn’t know about us,” said Moss.


Over the last year, the ability to hold virtual events became more important than ever. BIA of Mississippi is a great example of how to move forward with events: integrate virtual events with in-person ones, even when people are more free to gather. The ability to learn new virtual ways to reach people regardless of their location in Mississippi is something that all organizations should carry forward.

Know the facts about brain injury.

“A lot of brain injury survivors look fine on the outside. Traumatic brain injury contributes to 40% of mental illness. That’s a big deal. People who sustain a concussion may not even have any symptoms at the time of the accident as well, like with NFL players and people in the military, but over time it can lead to issues like depression, PTSD, addiction, and more,” said Moss.

BIA of Mississippi hopes to educate people throughout our state about brain injury. One of the biggest challenges the association faces in regard to brain injury in Mississippi is a lack of funding; Moss hopes that the more the public and legislators know about brain injury, the more resources will be available. 
To learn more about BIA of Mississippi or to donate, visit their website.

Move To Learn: boosting focus in the classroom through movement

Move To Learn: boosting focus in the classroom through movement

Every weekday morning at 9:00 am, Coach Larry Calhoun logs onto Facebook Live for a Brain Break. He begins with an educational hook, oftentimes using a fun prop, to get the children’s attention. After thanking parents, teachers, and students for joining, he’ll walk the audience through multiple “I am” affirmations: “I am strong. I am smart. I am loved. I am one of a kind.”

Next, he’ll launch into a brain break, coaching students through a five-minute dance to boost energy. At the end of the video, Coach Calhoun brings the students back down, so when they go back to their activity or work, they are calmer and ready to focus. 

Coach Calhoun is the face of Move To Learn, a project of The Bower Foundation, a private nonprofit working to improve Mississippi’s health, and the Mississippi Department of Education

“The health of Mississippi’s children is critically important. A great way to reach children is in the classroom, because pre-COVID, about half a million children were in a classroom setting per day. When we look at Mississippi’s trends for children who are overweight, it’s alarming. It inspired us to think about how to partner with the Mississippi Department of Education to align with the notion that if our bodies are healthier our brains function better,” said Anne Travis, CEO of The Bower Foundation.

The Bower Foundation’s work with the Mississippi Department of Education focuses on the alignment between health and the ability to engage in educational activities, and a lot of their work centered on children’s nutrition. They replaced deep fat fryers in school cafeterias with combination oven steamers and improved the farm to school initiative in the state, getting more fruits and vegetables in schools. In 2012, the Bower Foundation started Move To Learn.  

Move To Learn offers fun and easy ways to get students back on task. Before COVID-19, Coach Calhoun and Move To Learn visited 527 schools and reached 234,761 children across the state, presenting in front of audiences of up to 800 students. 

The science behind movement

When kids get to move at school, schools get better. Not only does student health improve, but academic performance improves, too. In several studies of Mississippi students done by the University of Southern Mississippi, more fitness was associated with better behavior and less absenteeism.

“Move To Learn helps boys and girls dissipate some of that energy they have just from being children. When I was a little boy, I had issues with sitting in a seat. I was fortunate as a kid because I had a couple of teachers who had movement throughout the day. Those teachers that allowed movement, I don’t remember having any behavioral challenges in their class. I do remember having challenges in the classes where I had to sit still for 5-6 hours a day,” said Coach Calhoun.

The study completed by the University of Southern Mississippi and The Bower Foundation showed the correlation between Move To Learn and students’ Time-On-Task. They found that children who got to Move To Learn ended up with more Time-On-Task, meaning the children were calmer or settled, more attentive, and more alert in the classroom. 

“We want to create simple ways to help make teacher’s jobs easier, whether that’s meeting state standards or making their children be inspired and feel better,” said Travis. 

Making Move To Learn accessible during COVID-19

When schools switched to virtual learning at the start of COVID-19 last March, Move To Learn began doing Facebook live videos every weekday at 9:00 am. They also offer a wide array of videos on their YouTube channel for grades K-12, all lasting five minutes. 

Move To Learn also began hosting Virtual Brain Break Lives, where teachers would book an appointment to have Coach Calhoun visit their classrooms for 15 minutes through Zoom. During the Virtual Brain Break Lives, Coach Calhoun interacts with the class, leading the students through a short presentation and getting them moving. 

The videos are also available on MPB Classroom TV, making Move To Learn more accessible from home. MPB Classroom TV also puts Move To Learn videos between instruction time, similar to how the videos are utilized in a classroom setting to increase focus on learning. 

Move To learn plans on bringing back in-person visits to schools once it can be done in a safe and healthy environment. 

“There’s nothing like Coach in-person with a big group of kids,” said Scott Clements, State Director of the Office of Child Nutrition and Healthy Schools. “Larry pumps the kids up for 40 minutes and then at the end guides them through focus time. He brings them down, and when they leave, it is quiet and orderly. I can not tell you the number of times teachers have said how surprised they were that students can go from that high to that calm, and they can bring kids back to class and those kids are not bouncing off the walls anymore. We love the live shows, and that’s a goal of ours to get back to that when it’s safe and healthy.”

Making it easy for teachers to get 150 minutes of movement for their students

“We don’t want kids to only be in the classroom, only in the chair. We want kids to be healthy bodies and have healthy minds. Not only does Move To Learn help reach that goal of 150 minutes, but these videos are also in short enough periods where teachers can work them in over the course of a day. They get their activity, and they focus better too,” said Clements.

The Mississippi State Board and the legislator realized that kids need to have physical activity, resulting in the Mississippi Health Students Act, a recommendation that students must get 150 minutes of movement per week. Move To Learn is a tool that teachers can use at their discretion; it’s quick and easy, only 5 minutes of time. 

“When you extrapolate hundreds of thousands of video views to classrooms of 20 children to 5 minutes, you’re talking about billions of minutes for physical activity that presumably didn’t exist before Move To Learn. Larry will also stress the importance of nutrition and things to go along with a more holistic view of health and not just physical activity. This can be an easy component to creating a better environment in the classroom,” said Clements. 

Creating a culture of health for Mississippi’s children

Move To Learn is a resource that inspires children to be fit, healthy, and active. What are some of the takeaways of Move To Learn?

“What we’ve done pre- and during COVID is try to create a moment of fun and happiness and joy, and a little tiny bit of predictability, that might make a child or teacher feel better. What’s the ripple effect of that? If children feel cared for and loved, they’re going to be excited and engaged learners,” said Travis. 

Move To Learn videos are available for free for educators and students. Visit their website or subscribe to their YouTube for more information and videos. 

Creating a Culture of Health One Mask at a Time

Creating a Culture of Health One Mask at a Time

Judy Morris has hand-sewn over 600 masks since COVID-19 began in March. When masks became harder to find, Morris used scraps from her own sewing machine, as well as material purchased by her daughter, and started creating. 

First, her masks were just for a surgeon in Jackson who was a friend of her daughter, and then Morris made masks for her family in Louisiana and Arkansas and neighbors who didn’t have access to any masks. Through word of mouth, the demand for masks continued to grow, and now Morris has made over 600 masks, charging for those who request them in bulk. 

“I’ve sewn since I was about six. I do heirloom sewing, making christening gowns and baby clothes. In a way, making masks has been great — it keeps me from being bored. I’m 76, and I pretty much stay at home to avoid COVID.  I’m not making masks everyday, but I keep a stack of them around and if anyone wants any, I can make them,” said Morris.  

Morris uses an easy sewing pattern with all of her masks — a rectangular piece of fabric, lined, with elastic ear hooks on it–resulting in the standard blue masks with three pleats. Morris makes them out of 100% cotton with light weight cotton flannel for lining.  Morris typically makes masks in batches, but one mask takes around 15 minutes to make, meaning Morris has spent over 150 hours making masks since March. 

“I really believe one of the reasons that I haven’t got COVID is because when I leave my house, I have my mask on. I really think the mask is so important to keep you from giving your germs out,” said Morris.

Morris believes that making these masks is an easy way to contribute to creating a culture of health in a time of crisis — anyone can contribute to the overall project of making our state a healthier place. Wearing a mask will keep germs within that barrier and help protect others if you’re sick with COVID-19, even if you have minimal or no symptoms. Wearing masks also serve as a helpful reminder not to touch your face.

To learn more about the COVID-19 website in Mississippi, visit the Mississippi State Department of Health website.

Free Resource Navigation: Connecting to Resources through an App

Free Resource Navigation: Connecting to Resources through an App

When Olivia Ainsworth graduated from college in 2010, she was a single mother trying to find a job in a bad job market and struggling economy. She ended up working an entry-level position that paid $23,000 a year, and after monthly payments on her student debt, rent, and childcare, she didn’t have any money left. She realized she needed help. 

She scoured government and nonprofit websites — searching for things like temporary aid, continuing education opportunities, food stamp availability, daycare assistance. 

“I was bounced around from faulty numbers to information and websites that were outdated. I kind of gave up. I filled out a few applications, and I made a little bit too much money to qualify for some of the resources. I remember thinking there is no help out there for me, just hard work, prayer, maybe some good luck,” said Ainsworth.  

Several years later, she moved up in the corporate world and got involved in affordable housing, where she discovered a surprising abundance of available resources. Based on her experience, she decided to create Free Resource Navigation, an app that connects individuals to personalized and reputable leads to resources.

Creating a Culture of Health in Mississippi with Information

“My inspiration to create the app was my little boy and the time I spent as a single mother really struggling. I decided when I saw the abundance of resources and the disconnect, it would be so nice to have personalized help and access to assistance. The needs in Mississippi are so diverse. There is not one story or one situation that is exactly the same,” said Ainsworth.

The mobile app connects individuals to government, for profit and nonprofit organizations, based upon a series of socio-demographic questions in the hopes of facilitating a better life for its users. The app works as a lead system to give individuals an all-encompassing view of applicable services in categories such as housing, finance, education, wellness, etc. 

For example, if you are a single father, resources that only apply to single mothers would not benefit you. Or, if you are in a certain income level, there are resources available based strictly on your income, so if you fall outside of that income category, you wouldn’t benefit. Free Resource Navigation personalizes resources based on specific needs.

“The real disconnect and the real issue is not providing people with the tools they need to succeed, and that just starts with basic facts. Whether that’s health and education or any different category, it’s really just giving people the knowledge and letting them take control of their future. That’s the disconnect I see in Mississippi,” said Ainsworth. 


According to the State Health Assessment, access to information promoting the culture of health is an issue that has room for improvement in Mississippi, as well as communication between government and nonprofit organizations and the community they represent. 

Free Resource Navigation  is working to change that. If you want to work to improve the culture of health in Mississippi, check out these tips for success from Ainsworth:

Relationship building and finding people who understand the value of working for the greater good has been Ainsworth’s main goal, and her techniques for finding partners has all changed since COVID began. She went from shaking hands to acquiring partners over the phone and through social media. One of her biggest partners is the Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy, who have worked with Ainsworth to get multiple members on board. 

Free Resource Navigation is available on Apple and Google Play and is free to download.

The Mississippi Thrive! Child Health and Development Project is improving health outcomes for children

The Mississippi Thrive! Child Health and Development Project is improving health outcomes for children

About 100 new babies are born each day across Mississippi. During the first five years, children’s brains make more than one million neural connections every second. The foundation of the brain is established in these early years as children reach developmental milestones—like focusing their vision or gaining control over their muscles. Marking these milestones – at home and with health care professionals – is an important step to be sure a young child is developing correctly. 

While it’s fun to celebrate as children reach new milestones, it’s important to pay attention to any concerns one may have about a child’s development. One in six children experiences developmental delays. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends regular developmental screenings when children are 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months—or any time there is a concern. However, most children in Mississippi (70%) have not received a developmental screening. 

Detecting and addressing developmental delays early through developmental screenings and connecting a child with the appropriate supports can create better outcomes for the child’s future. 

To better support the development of young children from birth through age five, the Child Health and Development Project: Mississippi Thrive! is working to improve the statewide behavioral health system. Here’s how:

  1. Active promotion of healthy early brain development. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers develop rapidly across many domains, like speech, hearing, vision, and social skills. This brain architecture is the structure for the skills and abilities children need in school and later life. Health care providers and early childhood professionals have a key role in laying the foundation for strong brain development.

  2. Regular, professional checks on children’s development. Fewer than one in three children in Mississippi receive a formal developmental evaluation from a health care provider. Low levels of developmental screening and monitoring means we are missing opportunities to take action early, when it would be most effective. Mississippi Thrive! is working to double the rate of developmental screening in our state.

  3. Connections to services when needed. When children don’t reach a developmental milestone at the time expected, it’s important to address the issue in a timely manner. Often there are simple supports that can boost the child’s progress. Mississippi Thrive! is working to make it easier and more efficient for primary care providers and families to work with specialists when needed.

The Child Health and Development Project: Mississippi Thrive! is moving into its fourth year of funding from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA). Mississippi Thrive! is a project of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Children’s of Mississippi and Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center. 

Supporting developmental and behavioral health for young children in Mississippi

For more information, visit, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company Is Prioritizing Employee Wellness

Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company Is Prioritizing Employee Wellness

Like many others, Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company (SFBLI) had to pivot in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when it comes to their employees’ wellbeing, they wanted to make sure they kept opportunities and resources easily accessible, even though most of the workforce was working remotely. Throughout the pandemic, they’ve initiated campaigns, projects, and virtual events to keep employees’ wellbeing top of mind.

Feeding the Frontline

In partnership with the Mississippi State Medical Association during April and May, SFBLI provided relief for physicians and healthcare workers in hospitals and clinics in Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties. With an on-site Café at the home office building operated by Sodexo, SFBLI and the Sodexo staff prepared over 500 meals and delivered them to the tri-county area. This partnership was a small way that SFBLI could show their appreciation and thanks to the frontline heroes who have been and are continuing to work tirelessly to protect Mississippians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual Races

The ways SFBLI has supported community partners may look different in 2020, but they are still aiming to make a significant impact. They have been the title sponsor of two virtual races, one with the Canopy Children’s Solutions and the Farm Bureau Watermelon Classic. They had over 150 employees participate in these races virtually and help impact the local community. The virtual races kept employees plugged into community efforts while also keeping their health and wellbeing top of mind!

Mindful Living

A series that has been monthly for over three years, Mindful Living sessions became virtual in 2020. The SFBLI on-site Health Coach and community partners host the sessions, featuring topics like “Eating Healthy on The Go,” “Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors to Boost Your Immunity,” and “Setting and Achieving Health Goals.” As employees’ lives have changed because of things like working from home and having children at home, SFBLI wanted to provide resources to help them keep wellbeing top of mind.

Along with numerous other programs and virtual events, SFBLI has continued to reach out and support community partners throughout the pandemic. They have upcoming partnerships with Sow Reap Feed to provide volunteers and resources for their mobile markets in the Jackson Metro area as well. 

Shelby & Murphy 5k for Kids


SFBLI works to promote many of UProot’s priorities, like creating a culture of health in the workplace, increasing educational attainment and reducing rates of chronic disease, just like UProot!

Learn more about the Southern Bureau Life Insurance Company

The Metropolitan YMCAs of MS is dedicated to youth development & healthy living

The Metropolitan YMCAs of MS is dedicated to youth development & healthy living

The Metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi is dedicated to strengthening our state through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

Lasting personal and social change can only come about when everyone works together. For almost 115 years, YMCA has been addressing community needs to make Mississippi a better place to live.

The Y has an array of programs for youth development, like ensuring that hungry children are fed nutritious meals, teaching the lifesaving skill of swimming, reducing summer learning loss, and building positive character traits. This provides a strong foundation to improve educational attainment, reduce chronic disease and create a culture of health in Mississippi’s future.


Through keeping their employees healthy, corporations can improve their overall productivity, plus save money on health care expenses. The Y offers customizable Corporate Wellness Programs to Mississippi employers.

Starting a Corporate Wellness Program is easy and supports company goals and culture. The Y offers a variety of Healthy Living programs that can be offered on location for businesses investing in overall employee health. 

These programs are also great examples for other companies who are hoping to implement a culture of health in their office culture. 

Here are some examples:

The Metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi combats chronic diseases and helps create a culture of health. As an employer, making a decision to provide one of these, or similar, programs is a great way to promote workplace wellness. 

Learn more about the Metropolitan YMCAs of MS. 

[Success Story submitted by the Metropolitan YMCAs of MS.]

Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi Gives Vital Support to Premature Infants

Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi Gives Vital Support to Premature Infants

If you’ve ever visited a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you’ve seen babies who can fit into the palm of your hand. Premature babies, born weeks and sometimes months before their due date, need extra care to survive and thrive.

A key pillar of support for premature babies is human breast milk. One nonprofit organization, the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi (MMBM), is dedicated to bringing mothers’ milk to babies in NICUs around the state, and to ill and special needs infants by physician prescription. 

A donor’s milk can save babies’ lives. An antibody in mothers’ milk is essential to preventing NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis), an inflammation in the intestines that can be fatal to premature babies. The milk coats and protects the intestinal lining, while also being nutritionally dense and combating blindness, heart defects, asthma and other serious issues common in premature infants.

A great need for donor milk

There is a great need in Mississippi for donor milk, given that its rates for premature births are among the highest in the country. Around 17 percent of babies in Mississippi are born before 39 weeks of pregnancy, compared to the national average of around 12 percent. The risk is even higher for African-American women, where rates can be greater than 20 percent — one baby in five. Mississippi consistently ranks among the bottom of U.S. states in other indicators of infant health, as well, such as infant mortality and low birth weight, which is why UProot made Improving Infant Health one of its four priorities

MMBM is Mississippi’s only accredited HMBANA milk bank; it is medically supported and professionally staffed. Though the organization was established in 2010 and has been pasteurizing milk in its lab since 2014, “people say all the time that they don’t know about us,” says Anna Higginbottom, Deputy Executive Director of MMBM. “We’re always looking for donors and volunteers.”

How to get involved

Lactating women with surplus milk begin by contacting MMBM for a pre-screening phone interview to ensure that they’re in good health. After taking a blood test at MMBM’s expense, they’re ready to donate.

Donors can drop off frozen milk at one of ten depot locations across the state, including the newest at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven; the milk is then shipped to the lab in Flowood for pasteurization. MMBM has had 382 milk donors since its opening and has approved 36 new donors to date in 2019. 

“We would love more volunteers to come in,” says Higginbottom, who is part of a small but dedicated staff at MMBM. “They can be trained to help in the lab with pasteurization, and we’d also love to have help with paperwork.” 

Mothers’ Milk Bank of Mississippi is a key player in moving forward UProot’s priority to Improve Infant Health. In addition to processing and distributing donor milk, the staff travels around the state educating hospitals about MMBM’s services. As funding allows, the organization plans to continue opening new depot locations to make donations as easy as possible and serve even more babies around the state. 

To learn more, visit and the MMBM Facebook page. MMBM is always looking for volunteers, milk donors, tax-deductible individual donations, and grant funds. Registrations are open for its 6th annual Milk Run 5K on Saturday, September 21 at Flowood Nature Park, where all proceeds benefit MMBM.

Learn more about what else you can do to Improve Infant Health in Mississippi.