By Monroe Journal
AMORY – A unique, new program to help families overcome obstacles is coming to Monroe County.
In partnership with the Amory School District and United Way of Greater Monroe County, the Gilmore Foundation soon will open a resource center in the former Amory Learning Center building at 115 N. 6th St. in Amory. The building, owned by the Amory School District, was a former grocery store-turned learning center used for various classes and meetings.
The Center Inc. will serve as a clearinghouse or one-stop resource center for all of the children in the county. It will address the needs of students and parents countywide, from providing tutorial materials to offering supplies and tools to carry out homework assignments or to master the Mississippi Common Core Curriculum standards. It also will provide relief items to families in need and direct them to proper agencies and resources to alleviate problems.
Similar to medical referral desks, The Center will be Monroe County’s centralized facility for providing information and assistance year-round, five days a week. It will employ a staff of six to eight professionals and be set up initially to serve children through sixth grade.
According to Gilmore Foundation Executive Director Danny Spreitler, The Center is an attempt to address educational needs of families, while at the same time addressing the problems associated with poverty in the community. The Center is the only such partnership in the state between a public school system and a nonprofit.
“The Center is a stick in the eye of poverty,” Spreitler said. “Poverty is destroying the lives of our children, our families and our community. No disease is spreading more quickly nor possesses a more lethal outcome.
“The Center will level the field in education for all children of Monroe County. Not only will we have one of the largest resource libraries in the state, but we are staffing The Center with professionals in early childhood development and education.
“We will address the developmental needs of our children. We will have professionals to assist caregivers in the use of all the developmental materials.”
Children will be referred to The Center by their teachers, school nurse, parents or grandparents. Then the staff at The Center will assess the child and point them toward different resources. Referrals will be done electronically and materials will be pulled from The Center’s shelves to loan to the family. The GELI van will make deliveries of materials throughout the county if transportation to The Center is a problem.
The Center will house thousands of resource materials, such as educational toys, manipulatives, books, paint, construction paper, laminating devices and die-cutting equipment. Families will not be charged for services or supplies at The Center.
The Gilmore Foundation expects The Center to evolve over the years into a major hub to foster educational attainment.
“We expect it to take five years to fully develop this program,” Spreitler said. “We already have overwhelming support from our school systems for this.”
The Center will serve everybody – talented students, special-needs children and disadvantaged children. Summer enrichment programs are being planned as well as parenting programs. Also planned are classes for first-time mothers. Among problems that might be addressed at The Center are the mastery of specific educational skills, proper clothing, medical care, vision problems, testing for ADH, or other learning disabilities, dental health and more.
A seven-member board of directors has been named to oversee The Center, with three members from the Amory School District. A timeline to introduce The Center and its resources to teachers, child care providers and parents has been established for January with The Center’s grand opening on Jan. 31.