By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Kiwanis Club donated $10,000 to the Oktibbeha County Excel By 5 Coalition and donated $500 each to the OCH Auxiliary and Sally Kate Winters Family Services in West Point at its meeting Tuesday.
Excel By 5 works to improve children’s overall well-being by age 5 by granting certification to communities that substantially improve early child care and education, health and safety, family and parent support and community involvement. Doug Ferguson, chair of the Starkville Kiwanis Club’s Major Emphasis Committee, said the OCH Auxiliary provides coloring books, stuffed animals and other comforts to children admitted to the hospital, and Sally Kate Winters Family Services helps children in need of foster care. All three, he said, advance Kiwanis International’s goal of supporting children’s wellness and growth.
“Starkville Kiwanis Club awards around $50,000 a year to youth organizations in Starkville and surrounding communities,” Ferguson said, “and that’s something we’re proud of.”
Ferguson said the major emphasis committee is one of several within the club, and each committee has its own budget and gives out a large grant each year. Excel By 5 has been the major emphasis committee’s culminating project for multiple years, he said, and it has received large sums for multiple years.
“Last year, they received $9,600,” Ferguson said. “This year we awarded them $10,000 because they requested it.”
Ellen Goodman, Oktibbeha County Excel By 5 certification manager, said her team applied for Kiwanis’ “Young Children Priority One” funding, which, like Excel by 5, focuses on the needs of children 0-5 years old. She said this is the second year Starkville Kiwanis Club has funded Oktibbeha’s Excel By 5 proposal, and the coalition appreciates the club’s help.
“The coalition members are thrilled that we have the opportunity to proceed with our plans thanks to the financial assistance from the Kiwanis Club of Starkville,” Goodman said. “All children (from) birth (to) 5 years of age will be able to benefit from the plans of the coalition.”
Goodman said the coalition will use the funds to provide community events in the coming months, including a Back to School Bash and Health Fair from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. July 28 at the Starkville Sportsplex. Through such events, she said, Kiwanis’ funds will help Oktibbeha County meet certification requirements.
“We hope to have good news to share with our Oktibbeha County community later this summer concerning our certification,” Goodman said. “There will be a celebration event scheduled once we reach our certification, but first we have two requirements to meet and then we can schedule that celebration. We must keep working (even after certification), as our youngest children are depending on us to continue to provide a quality community that respects the needs of our youngest citizens and their families and provides a strong Oktibbeha County for them to live in.”
Goodman said the coalition also sponsors workshops and support activities for teachers, center directors and parents at the Emerson Family Resource Center. Ferguson said Kiwanis awarded $2,100 to Emerson for birthing classes earlier in the year.
Marco Nicovich, Starkville Kiwanis Club president, said Kiwanis raises its funds through volunteers who run concession stands at Mississippi State University athletic events.
“All of the proceeds from those concessions are donated to local charities working with youth in our community,” Nicovich said. “The main goal of Kiwanis is to change the world one child and one community at a time.”