March 30, 2023

Hinds CARES Day sheds light on area charities

“In what has now become an annual event, Hinds CARES Day is an opportunity for our employees to take a workday and spend it in service to our neighbors.”
BY: Rhonda Dunaway

Photography: BRAD SMITH

Above: Seen here in shades are Tracy Thigpen (from left), Patricia Gunn, Therossia Robinson, Ruby McFarland, Tracy Duncan, Jasymin Shepherd, and Mindy Stevens.

After three years, Hinds CARES Day has become an annual event where employees of Hinds Community College get the opportunity to show their neighbors that they care about what’s happening in their communities.

On March 10, Hinds employees participated in volunteer projects such as cleaning, organizing, making care packages and completing small building projects.

Hinds President Dr. Stephen Vacik was here for the first Hinds CARES Day in 2021.

“In what has now become an annual event, Hinds CARES Day is an opportunity for our employees to take a workday and spend it in service to our neighbors,” Dr. Vacik said. “The college wants to always support and maintain the community component of our name.”

There were dozens of Hinds employees volunteering across 12 charitable organizations spanning central Mississippi from Vicksburg to Brandon.

“We have seen such a turn-out each year,” Dr. Vacik said, “I couldn’t feel more gratified or blessed to be a small part of the Hinds family that models servant-leadership every day.”

In Raymond employees gathered in Fountain Hall where they put together care packages for the employees of Brookdale-Clinton: Assisted Living and Memory Care. From the president’s office, administrative assistant Jackie Jackson said she wanted to show elder care employees the appreciation they deserve.

“My mom was in an assisted living center,” Jackson said. “I spent a lot of time there with her – I just love old people – but in my time there I saw how hard the employees there worked. I wanted to show the employees at Brookdale that they are seen, and they are appreciated.”

Jackson’s team leader Leslie Moak said that was their purpose – to make people feel appreciated.

“It’s an honor to be able to give back to the staff who take care of the seniors at Brookdale Senior Living,” Moak said.

Cindy McCarley is the executive director of Good Shepherd in Vicksburg where they have resources for those in need to get food, health care and housing. Most importantly they offer educational programs. McCarley says having partners like Hinds employees is all a part of their business plan.

Hinds CARES Day Spring 2023

Above: The team leader for the group of volunteers from the Hinds CC-Vicksburg campus, Vanessa Shiers, is seen working on a clean-up and refurbishing project at the Good Shepard on Cherry Street in Vicksburg.

“We use community partners like Hinds to work on certain days of the year – like Thanksgiving and Christmas,” McCarley said. “The volunteers from the community do things like hand out food to the elderly, make care packages, do clean up, painting projects or volunteer for one of our other programs.” For Hinds CARES Day, employees did activities in the daycare and were put on a clean-up project to prepare for a few renovations.

McCarley’s background is in childhood counseling and in running crisis shelters for battered families. She said she just recently started her role at Good Shepherd and is so grateful to be working in the service of others.

“Loving people is what it’s all about and that’s what we are doing here,” McCarley said, “we are loving people.”

Hinds CARES Day Spring 2023

Above: Volunteers for CARES Day picking up trash are Julie Crockett (left), Rankin Honors Office Manager, and History instructor also from the Rankin campus Susan Livingston.

Lakeshore Park on the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Brandon is a place for swimming and picnics, plus fun events like family reunions and the Jackson area’s Fourth of July fireworks display. Hinds CARES Day employees Joy Rhoads and Academic Dean Gary Fox, both from the Rankin Campus, were among those who helped with a mass clean-up of the park.

“I appreciate participating in Hinds Cares Day because it provides me the opportunity to give back to the community,” Rhoads said. “It means something to help make a difference and to be part of a worthwhile endeavor. I especially enjoy working alongside my colleagues and the camaraderie we share.”

Fox agreed and said that even though the day started off cloudy and cold he was glad to help out. “This is a wonderful day to be out in the neighborhood picking up trash,” Fox said. “We love meeting with one another and doing a service for the community.”

The Vicksburg Family Development Center, like Good Shepherd, touches on every aspect of life for those living in poverty, who deal with food insecurity and the lack of other of life’s necessities. Most importantly, explained Claudia Taylor, the Program Educator and Home Visit coordinator, “it’s the education that offers people a hand up and a way out of poverty that makes the Center so essential.”

Hinds CARES Day Spring 2023

Above: CARES Day at the Vicksburg Family Development Service brought many volunteers to work on a paper-shredding project and an organization project. In the first row on the far right are Renee Cotton and Adrian Clark; in the second row is Gwendolyn Appleby (from left), Mitzi Thomas, Janie Gaddy, Felicia Jones, Dr. Teresa Johnson, Angie Wilkinson, Verlonda Neal, and Lemond Williams; in the back row is Dr. Chad Chisholm (from left), Dwayne Griffin, LaSandra Davis, Kandalin Moses, Connie Bain, Dr. Ann Sweezer-Rogers, Terrenell Galtney, Cynthia Jones, Lexy Thomas, and Dr. Elmira Ratliff.

Taylor said the Center targets the most vulnerable who are living and working under the poverty level.

“Our main goal here is to support the parent – we help them in any way we can,” Taylor said. “We teach a parenting class – it’s a forum we have every Wednesday. And we also help with job opportunities and make sure they have other resources by having partners in the community.

Hinds’ employees came in for a clean-up project that included shredding old documents and organizing food and clothing closets.

A dozen Hinds CARES Day participants were at the Jackson Resource Center where they helped clean and spruce up. Jackson Campus employee Alexis Rayford said she was there to pay it forward.

“I decided to volunteer just to give back and do something for the community,” Rayford said. “You never know when we may be in this situation. It’s great to give back and come and do something.”

Hinds CARES Day Spring 2023

Above: Miss Rose, center, is one of the permanent residents of the Jackson Resource Center on Langley Street in Jackson. She is with Hinds CARES volunteers, from left, Jennifer Barnes, Jackson Campus; Ashley Gilyard, Jackson Campus; Alexis Rayford, Jackson Campus; back row, Madarius Thomas, Jackson Campus; and LaSonja Lightfoot, Jackson Campus.

Only a year old, the center is in a former nursing home on Langley Street in Jackson. It isn’t a shelter but is instead more like an apartment complex or college dormitory with individual rooms for permanent residents. There are also several services available to residents which include having a post office box, a cafeteria, health care and a barbering studio.

Educational Director Angela Stewart explained that the residences are a permanent solution for people – not just a one-time deal.

“Anybody who’s homeless or on the brink of being homeless can come here and they can live here for life,” Stewart said. “This is not a shelter. And the support services here are in place so that we can help residents become productive citizens.”

Stewart welcomed the help from the Hinds CARES Day participants saying, “On behalf of the Jackson Resource Center, we love Hinds Community College! You do amazing work, and you continue to care.”

About two dozen Hinds CARES Day volunteers helped load boxes of food for distribution to those in need at the Mississippi Food Network on Beatty Street in Jackson.

Joining in the assembly line were Joyce Adams, Nursing/Allied Health Center; Sybyl Stringer Raymond Campus, and Carol Fletcher, Jackson Campus. Stringer said it gave her a great feeling to be a part of CARES Day.

“I think it’s good to give time to the community. I support the Food Network every year, and I’m glad we do this,” Stringer said. Co-worker Fletcher said what she enjoys is getting to do this project with other Hinds employees.

“I’m giving back to the community, and I get to work with my Hinds family,” Fletcher said. “I like seeing the people from other campuses. I don’t see them very often. Maybe once or twice a year. So, this is a fun time to catch up.”

Hinds CARES Day Spring 2023

Above: Joyce Adams, Nursing/Allied Health Center, left, Sybyl Stringer, Raymond Campus; and Carol Fletcher, Jackson Campus were part of an assembly line of a couple of dozen Hinds CARES volunteers who packed boxes of food for distribution at the Mississippi Food Network on March 10.

Adams agreed saying, “Like everybody else, I want to give back. The Mississippi Food Network provides food for my church food pantry. That’s why I wanted to come here. Each year we’ve been doing this I’ve been at this location. This is my favorite.”

Raymond Campus employee BoNita Harris is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority that does volunteer work. “Part of the reason I volunteered is I wanted to help people in the community. Volunteerism is something I’ve always done. I think this is going to be extremely beneficial for those in the community.”

The Friends of Utica welcomed the Hinds CARES Day volunteers to participate in a clean-up day. Russell Cougar is retired from Hinds and said he loves coming out for CARES Day to be a part of something the college is doing and to help the community.

“I worked in learning for 28 years,” he said.

At the Metropolitan YMCA-Clinton a group of Hinds employees were helping lift 2 x 12 pine planks to build a pit for Gaga Ball, a form of dodgeball brought over from Israel and played in an octagonal-shaped pit. Team leader Marcille McLendon said she enjoyed being with her colleagues and doing a little good in the community.

The pit is for “after school and summer programs at the Clinton campus,” McLendon said. “I enjoy being with my colleagues from across the district working on a project that I know will benefit future Hinds students.”

McLendon said they also met some current Hinds students. “While we were at the YMCA a couple of their after-school staff assisted us. We learned that the two young men that helped us are current Hinds students. This was a great experience for all of us and I think it showed those young men that we at Hinds really do care about our community.”

Other non-profits and charities participating in Hinds CARES Day 2023 were:

  • Ever Reaching Community Outreach, Pelahatchie
  • Shower Power, Jackson
  • The Good Samaritan Center, Jackson
  • Metropolitan YMCA-Reservoir, Brandon