By Errol Castens
OXFORD – Gratitude was the order of the day Wednesday when North Mississippi Regional Center clients, families, staff and area officials celebrated the Oxford campus’ 40th anniversary.
The Regional Center and its branches serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in 23 counties of North Mississippi. It is one of six such programs in the state.
“North Mississippi Regional Center is special because of the individuals that work here and the individuality of the people we serve and their families,” said Director Edith Hayles at Wednesday’s convocation. “We celebrate not just 40 years of
North Mississippi Regional Center but a common goal that we will all continue to work toward.”
Congressman Alan Nunnelee noted that in 1973, “A few visionaries stuck their necks out and started a mental health facility in north Mississippi.
“Their vision has changed the lives of so many families over North Mississippi,” he said. “The unique cooperation between this facility and the city of Oxford, Lafayette County and the University of Mississippi has resulted in a first-class facility that’s second to none.”
Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson illustrated the value of the facility with a quote from Mother Teresa: “‘Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.’ Thank you for your efforts,” he told staff members, “and most especially, thank you for your love.”
Retired director Carole Haney said NMRC is “a family who cares deeply about our people … not a career but a passion, not a job but a commitment.”
Immediate past director Sandi Rogers mused, “Think about how many lives have been touched – not just those who have lived here, but their families, their friends, the communities.”
George Harrison is a member of the Mississippi Board of Mental Health whose daughter has been an NMRC client for decades.
“Foster grandparents and the direct workers are what make this place operate,” he said, joking that administrators’ absences are hardly noticed. “Thank y’all for what you do.”