Hitt named Humanitarian of the Year

Photo/Rotarian Dr. Word Johnston, right, congratulates 2019 Collins Rotary Club Humanitarian Irving Hitt, center, during the annual awards banquet on Thursday, June 20, 2019. Hitt’s son, Oliver, is shown to the left and beside Mistress of Ceremony Jessica Bowman.

(The News-Commercial) An evening of great food, inspiring speakers, and a festive atmosphere celebrated the Collins Rotary Club’s Humanitarian of the Year and scholarship winners. Held on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at the Collins Civic Center, Irving Hitt was announced as this year’s recipient of the top honor. Member Dr. Word Johnston introduced the crowd to Hitt before giving the award. He recognized Hitt’s impact on Covington County through his work before retirement as a hospital administrator and after retirement as a community volunteer and trailblazer. He also recognized Hitt’s wife, Gwen, as being a vital part of the couple’s strong partnership. “People, we need you,” Hitt said after accepting the award. “Our world is in trouble. We take for granted our drinking water. We take for granted our health. We need to commit ourselves to building a better world, a better community. I dare you and me to recommit ourselves to be the kind of people to make our community a better place.” The banquet is now an annual event, used to unite the Rotary membership from the community. The audience heard from guest speakers and members.

AmeriCorps volunteers helping with Boys and Girls Club

The Boys and Girls Club of Covington County, in partnership with the University of Southern Mississippi Campus Link AmeriCorps, are excited to kick off the summer program with our AmeriCorps Volunteers. These recent high school graduates have displayed great interest in serving their communities and have met the requirements to serve as AmeriCorps Volunteers. As volunteers, these students will be tutoring fourth through eighth graders in summer programs with the goal of improving academic success. The current AmeriCorps members are Ta’Rasha Bolton, Madison Weary, Tamija Alexander, Kaitlyn Harvey, and Joanna Barnes (pictured above). Once these students have completed their hours, they will be awarded an academic scholarship to the institution of their choice. Organizers are proud to have these students and hopeful for the outcome of the program.

Collins takes steps to clean the city

Collins leaders have taken legal steps to clean up the city.

During the meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen at Collins City Hall Tuesday, June 4, 2019, a list of 32 dirty, overgrown, or unkept properties were presented. Property owners were required to mow grass, pick up trash, or otherwise clean their lots or face hefty penalties from the city.

Several property owners packed the board room and lobby before and during the meeting. About 10 of them cleaned their land before the meeting and made an appearance to be sure they were now good. Another nine didn’t show up at the meeting, but Public Works Director Bob Shoemake was able to confirm to Mayor Hope Jones, City Clerk Suzette Davis, and the board that they had cleaned their lots. A couple others had started cleaning, but were told to do more. Nearly 10 others were not at the meeting and did not complete any improvements with a couple of them telling the city to “do what you needed to do,” as quoted in the meeting.

Many of those in attendance at the meeting offered reasons to city leaders why the lots were in such bad shape. For example, the owner of one lot is now in assisted living care. A son said he cleaned up the yard, but doesn’t want to put too much effort into cleaning or repairs at this time.

“I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on it and then them take it away from us (to pay for a nursing home),” the man said.

Another property owner said she has spoken with Fire Chief John Pope about burning the house down for training. Pope wasn’t at the meeting, but the Mayor said she isn’t aware of that conversation, and questioned whether or not the city can do that, anyway.

Even for the lots that are now clean, the owners will remain on the list for one year. If any of those lots become dirty or overgrown again, just like the ones that haven’t been cleaned yet, Shoemake’s team can now go onto private property, clean it, and bill the services directly to property taxes.

In other city business, the board approved July 4 and 5th as city holidays due to a proclamation from the governor’s office, approved $26,258.30 for the purchase of a foam system for the fire department with $25,000 of that to be reimbursed by a Homeland Security grant, approved beer and light wine sales at the Family Dollar located at 816 Main Street, discussed some repairs needed on the outside of the Civic Center, discussed a scheduled power outage in late June or early July to replace equipment (details will be published in The News-Commercial when they are available), approved a speed limit of 35 miles per hour for the entire length of Fir Avenue with the exception of 25 miles per hour in school zones, and approved the purchase of flashing school zone signs for the lowest bids.


(The News-Commercial)

Sanderson Farms honored by 2020 Women on Boards

Sanderson Farms, Inc. has been named a 2020 Women on Boards Winning ‘W’ Company for the eighth consecutive year.

Winning ‘W’ Companies are recognized by 2020 Women on Boards for having at least 20 percent of corporate board seats held by women. According to the latest 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index, which measures companies on the Russell 3000 Index, the percentage of board seats held by women rose to 17.7 percent in 2018, up from 16.0 percent in 2017. Currently, women comprise 35 percent of those who have a seat on the Sanderson Farms, Inc. board.

“Sanderson Farms is honored to support the goals of 2020 Women on Boards by not only meeting, but exceeding their standards,” said Joe F. Sanderson, Jr., CEO and Chairman of the Board of Sanderson Farms. “Our company has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, which we know must start at the top.”

A non-profit education and advocacy campaign, 2020 Women on Boards is committed to raising public awareness about the value of gender-diverse boards with at least 20% women directors.

“We applaud Joe Sanderson Jr., and the board of Sanderson Farms for engaging the diverse opinions and perspectives of both genders on their board,” said Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO of 2020 Women on Boards. “Studies have shown that the varied perspectives of women are uniquely valuable to corporations and the challenges they face today.”

Amtrak’s City of New Orleans detours to City of Collins

Good morning, America. How are you? Say don’t you know me? I’m your native son. I’m the train they call the city of New Orleans, and I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

– Willie Nelson, “City of New Orleans”

Some people in Mount Olive, Collins, and Seminary got quite a surprise on Friday, June 7, 2019 as they saw one of the best known trains in America, made famous by Willie Nelson’s song “City of New Orleans,” detour from Jackson to Hattiesburg as it traveled from Chicago to New Orleans. With severe flooding ongoing in southern Mississippi and eastern Louisiana, the train has been beginning and ending in Jackson with charter buses completing the trip between Jackson and New Orleans for the past several weeks. The detour was part of a special train that completed the entire route. The photo shown here was taken by reader Michael Sumrall at the Collins Main Street railroad crossing.

Photo/(Submitted) Michael Sumrall

Top grads announced

Jones College recently hosted WDAM-TV’s annual Top of Class recognition program. Collins High School Valedictorian Ronnie Davis Jr., left, and Salutatorian Ambir Amacker, right, participated in this year’s celebration. WDAM meteorologist Nick Lilja, center, awarded the area’s valedictorians and salutatorians with a certificate of achievement. Students will be featured during WDAM-Sunrise at 5:58 a.m. through June 14 and on the WDAM-TV web page. WDAM-TV and Jones College are sponsors of this annual event.

Arrington Living Center earns multiple awards

The award-winning Arrington Living Center continues to add new accolades to its name, recently receiving a 2018 Embracing Quality Award and a 2019 Customer Experience Pinnacle Award. Both awards are centered around customer satisfaction and patients’ experience with their care. “We always strive to give our residents the best experience possible, so to have that affirmed through these awards is very gratifying,” said Josh Clayton, administrator of Arrington Living Center. “These awards are evidence that God has very much blessed our efforts to provide the best care possible to the people of Arrington.” To receive both awards, a number of Arrington Living Center’s residents and their family members were interviewed to assess the quality of care, quality of life and quality of service provided by the facility. The application process to receive these awards is rigorous, with the Embracing Quality Award evaluating facilities quarterly and the Pinnacle Award requiring monthly check-ins. Arrington Living Center had to meet the standards of these regular evaluations consistently for a 12-month period to receive the awards. “It’s a lot of work to participate in these awards programs, but they’re important to us as we evaluate whether or not we’re meeting the needs and expectations of our residents,” said Clayton. Only six nursing facilities in the state of Mississippi received the 2018 Embracing Quality Award for customer satisfaction. Sixteen facilities in Mississippi received a 2019 Customer Experience Pinnacle Award with Arrington being the only facility located in the Pine Belt.

Collins’ McLaurin signs with NY Giants

Former Collins High School football standout Mark McLaurin signed with the New York Giants as a free agent following the NFL Draft over the weekend. He was one of several Mississippi State players going pro following a banner draft for the Bulldogs. The safety was a 2019 NFL Combine Participant, a member of the 2017 Associated Press All-Bowl Team, and the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl MVP. He was also included in the 2016 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. According to Mississippi State athletics, his college career was highlighted as an instinctive safety who was one of the best in the SEC at his position during his last two seasons. He had a breakout junior campaign in which he led the SEC in interceptions and was the TaxSlayer Bowl MVP. He owns the MSU single-season record for interceptions and was a preseason All-America candidate by several publications as a senior. He played in 51 games with 30 starts an finished as MSU’s active career leader in interceptions with eight. McLaurin totaled 224 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks and defended 26 passes, forced a pair of fumbles and recovered three. He racked up 10 or more tackles in seven different games. At Collins, also according to MSU information, he was a solid defensive back awarded four starts by 247Sports. He played wide receiver and safety and was the eighth ranked player in Mississippi by 247Sports. He was also ranked Number 14 in the state by Scout.com and Number 26 by ESPN.com who also had him as a three-star recruit. McLaurin helped Collins to be crowned the 2014 Class 3A State Champions with a 14-2 record during his senior season. In 16 games played during his senior season, he recorded 35 receptions for 665 yards and eight touchdowns as a receiver. As a safety in 2014, he recorded 38 total tackles with five for loss. He also picked off seven passes, deflected four passes, recovered three fumbles and caused one. McLaurin also played baseball and basketball in high school. He is the son of Tijuana and Mark McLaurin.

(Photo courtesy www.hailstate.com)

Little Free Libraries are popping op in Covington County

At the January Friends of the Covington County Library meeting, Lynn Broom, Collins Elementary School librarian, shared some literacy programs she was interested in beginning here to help boost students’ interest in books and reading. One of the ideas she mentioned was Little Free Libraries (LFLs), a book exchange program that was started in May 2009. This method of sharing books in neighborhoods has become a huge, global movement. After the January meeting, Friends member Lane McLoud researched LFLs and found a website full of great stories and information. She also learned about a book written in 2015 and ordered it online. The book and website have great photos and ideas telling about the mission of repurposing unwanted books and saving them from the landfill. A LFL makes books accessible to children and students at all times in many locations. Todd Bol built the first LFL for his Hudson, Wisconsin, front yard in 2009 as a tribute to his mother, a former teacher and lifelong reader. Today, that single, small idea of “free books” has grown into a cultural phenomenon: there are more than 85,000 LFLs worldwide – in all 50 states and more than 90 countries, with dozens more established each week. Last year alone, 11,210 people started a LFL. As LFLs celebrate their 10th anniversary this May, more than 120 million books have been shared and thousands of neighbors have connected! The concept is simple: a LFL is a box of books, placed in an accessible spot, often a yard near a sidewalk. Everyone who passes is welcome to stop and browse the books inside. The book exchange runs on a “take a book, return a book” honor system. The inventory changes constantly, and something is offered for every reader from picture books to long novels. LFLs promote literacy and a love of reading. They also spark a feeling of community—sort of a neighborhood watercooler—an informal meeting place. Some LFLs offer a seed-sharing program and some LFLs have dog treats available. In May of 2012, LFL was established as an official nonprofit organization. Since then, things have exploded! LFLs have been featured on NBC Nightly News, in USA Today and on National Public Radio. LFLs are a full-fledged global movement and the world’s largest book-sharing movement. There are LFLs in Ukraine, Honduras, Iceland, Pakistan, China, Italy, Ghana, Japan, India, Australia, the Netherlands and Korea. They are in big cities like New York and Los Angeles as well as the smallest towns of Iowa and Idaho, in parks, hospital waiting rooms and front yards. According to the global map, Mississippi has about 180 LFLs. To participate in the LFLs organization, each library is registered at a cost of $40 and assigned a unique charter number that allows for listing on the official world map on the website. This map offers a catalog of exact locations so that one can find a LFL when he or she is on the road travelling or on vacation or even locate one they’d love to visit someday. “Stewards” are the caretakers of LFLs, the ones who stock and maintain it. Each LFL has a steward or team of stewards. Stewards play an important and active part in this rapidly growing movement. After Lane shared the LFL book and the information from the website with Lynn Broom and other Friends officers, it was agreed that this was something the group could do in Covington County to promote literacy. The LFL website offers building kits for sale. The prices start at $200 and go into the $400s which made that route impractical for the Friends group so they looked at other possibilities. The website and book encourage repurposing and upcycling of materials to build LFLs. People have used old suitcases, vintage metal breadboxes, dorm-size refrigerators, hollow trees and other unique items. The idea of repurposing an old newspaper vending machine is suggested in the book. In early February, Lane contacted a Hattiesburg newspaper office, and they donated three boxes. After sanding and painting, the Friends placed one at Hopewell Elementary and one on Main Street in Collins. The third will be placed at Collins Elementary. The News-Commercial has donated four more newspaper boxes, and students at the Covington County Career and Technical Education Complex are painting them. The Friends plan to put two LFLs in Mount Olive and two in Seminary and make this a county-wide program. A huge donation of books was received from The Mission Store in Collins so that there are books for all ages to start the LFLs. Book donations will be needed to keep this going in the future in case more books go out than come in. Books may be donated at the three public libraries in Mt. Olive, Collins and Seminary. The cost of charter signs for the first three LFLs was paid by the Friends. The Collins Rotary Club made a very generous donation to cover the charters for the next LFLs. To emphasize how fast LFLs are growing, the first three charter numbers were ordered on March 10 and have the numbers 85389, 85390 and 85391. The second order placed on March 20 has numbers 85916 to 85920. That’s an addition of more than 500 LFLs in 10 days! Little Free Libraries are all about building community, sparking creativity, and inspiring readers As LFLs celebrate 10 years this May, read the words of founder Tod Bol who stated, “I really believe in a LFL on every block and a book in every hand. I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.” The website is www.littlefreelibraries.org for more information.

Mississippi crafts and arts on display at the library

Collins Florist of Collins is proud to be a supporter of Mississippi artisans. Some of the favorites are on display at the R. E. Blackwell Library in Collins for the month of May. On display, one will find a sample of hand-carved walking canes by Herb Pickering of Harrisville, a member of the Artists Guild of Mississippi. There is also jewelry by Victoria Cross of Hattiesburg and by Amber’s Allie of Natchez. There are t-shirts by Anna Grace Tees of Gulfport, pottery pieces by Tab Boren of Mantachie, metal works by Debbie Barron of Florence, water color paintings by Bram Saucier of Collins and several Mississippi cookbooks. Additionally, wonderful candles from Blue Deer Candles and Wax of West Point and Grassroots Natural Candle Company of Columbus are displayed as well as goods from Flathau’s Bakery of Petal. The Friends of the Covington County, MS Library would like to thank Collins Florist owner Dara Saucier for sharing her items highlighting Mississippi artisans. The Friends want other local businesses and residents to know that the library display case is available monthly and invite anyone to share a collection, hobby or interesting display.