By Terri Ferguson Smith
Scores of well wishers were on hand Thursday to celebrate the dedication of a new building for an agency that helps those in need.
Multi-County Community Service Agency on St. Paul Street, which is headquartered in Meridian, helps clients in Lauderdale, Kemper, Newton, Clarke, Jasper, Neshoba, Scott, Smith and Wayne counties. It provides emergency food and shelter, crisis intervention, low-income heating and energy-assistance, low-income weatherization, volunteer income tax preparation, a foster grandparents program, Meals on Wheels, and other programs to provide help for those in need.
Now the staff and volunteers can offer those services in a new 11,000 square foot building with no fear of the leaky roofs and unpredictable heating and air conditioning that plagued the previous building.
"We work with the families to ensure that the condition in which they are in when they come to us is not the condition they are in when they leave," Callie Cole, executive director, said during the celebration.
Brad Carter of Carter Miller Associates, which designed the building, said he had been working with Cole for more than 30 years. He was on the city school board at that time and helped MCCSA obtain the school that housed the program. He said the staff and clients will enjoy the new facility.
"It has everything that you would want and it has comfort zones in it," Carter said. "You are going to be able to have the things you need in the various rooms that will accommodate the number of people that you have."
And, as Carter was glad to note, it was finished under budget. The projected cost was $1.3 million; but the final cost was closer to $1.2 million. The project was funded by a $600,000 grant obtained by the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors and a $700,000 loan to MCCSA.
Leon Harris, president of Bank Plus in Meridian, recalled meeting MCCSA's director when he served as campaign director of United Way.
"The first time I visited it was hot — no air. Callie said 'Come in here. I think we can get the air down to where it will be comfortable.' We got by that day," Harris said. "The next time I came it was raining. There were buckets all in the hall. I said, 'Callie. What are you going to do?' She said, 'I've got a plan.' Little did I know I was involved in that plan. This is a great day and this is a great building."
Joe Norwood, MCCSA board member and District 4 supervisor said the clients the agency serves are in great need.
"It serves those people who are less fortunate than we are," Norwood said. "We just got through Thanksgiving and Christmas. During those times we all are warmhearted and we open our hearts out to people in need, but I'm here to let you know that this agency serves those people 12 months out of the year; 365 days a year. When you leave here today and you go across a bridge in this community and all communities, there's a man, a woman and a child probably sleeping under a bridge or in a car that looks just like you."