By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – The Autism Center of North Mississippi is going places with help from Toyota.
During a Tuesday presentation at Carlock Toyota, the nonprofit agency took possession of the new Toyota Prius the center won as part of a 100 Cars for Good giveaway this fall and received a $20,000 grant from Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi.
“It’s a blessing,” said Brittany Cuevas, director of business development for the autism center, which provides services on a sliding scale to children with autism and their families as well as services contracted through schools.
The $20,000 grant is part of the community support the Toyota plant in Blue Springs allocates each quarter. The grant will support the center’s ability to provide services to families who can’t afford to pay $50 an hour to receive therapy. Mississippi is one of three states that doesn’t cover therapy services for children with autism through Medicaid.
“Toyota Mississippi is very committed to education in the region,” said Jackie Hogan, general manager for human resources at the Toyota plant.
To win a vehicle in the Toyota 100 Cars for Good, the autism center had to finish in the top two places out of five nonprofit agencies in daily voting.
“It’s a testament to all the connections people have in Tupelo,” said John Oxford, volunteer board president for the autism center.
The Prius will be used by autism center staff members who travel the region to deliver assessments, therapy and teach training at area schools and provide in-home services for those children who can’t come into the Tupelo center.
The center was one of three Mississippi nonprofit agencies selected from the 3,500 who applied to compete in Facebook voting. The Gulf Coast Women’s Center won a van. The Yoknapatawpha Arts Council in Oxford didn’t win a vehicle, but will receive a $1,000 grant.