United Way helps plant seeds for new programs

Published 11:44 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Students at Jacob’s Ladder are creating beautiful ceramic pieces and it all started with the purchase of a kiln.

After students, teachers and members of Jacob’s Ladder board of directors toured The Mustard Seed, a non-profit organization located in Brandon that provides a Christian community for adults with developmental disabilities, where they got a glimpse of that agency’s ceramic room, did the idea to start one of their own become exciting.

“When we toured the building where they do ceramics I think all of us just got chills and said, ‘We could do this,’” Jacob’s Ladder director Rebecca Busby said.

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletter

Receive daily headlines and obituaries

With the aid of a community investment venture grant funded by the United Way of West Central Mississippi, Jacob’s Ladder was able to purchase a kiln and has for more than five years been creating hand-made works of ceramic art and selling them from a storefront set up at the school and at The Cinnamon Tree on Washington Street. Busby also attends local flea markets where she sets up a booth with the one-of-a-kind pieces.

Each year the United Way Board of Directors earmarks $15,000 to $20,000 for community investment venture grants, United Way community investment chairman David Cox said, with focus areas including education, financial stability, health and support services.

“These grants can serve as seed money for new innovative programs under development that address unmet community needs within the focus areas of the United Way. Requests can be for any amount up to $2,500. The specific dollar amount will depend on the individual application and how the funds are proposed to be utilized,” Cox said, adding, “There are no set limits to how many grants can be awarded each quarter.  The only limiting factors really are the number of applicants, the amount of available funds, and the qualifications of each request.”

In a typical quarter, Cox said the United Way might get “three to four” applications for the grants, which are then reviewed by the Community Investment Committee. Recommendations are then presented to the United Way Board of Directors.

During the review process, Cox said, when deciding if grant money should be awarded a number of questions are asked, including, how many people will be positively impacted by the program; will the program be able to sustain itself going forward; is this a duplication of services already available in the community elsewhere; and does the program utilize a cost-effective approach in delivering meaningful improvement?

Alesia Shaw, United Way’s Director of Marketing and Resource Development, said community investment grants are usually awarded on a one-time basis with no commitment for continued support.

“United Way of West Central Mississippi has determined that community investment grants are a reliable way to provide short-term support for startup, development, or stabilization of new or untried programs,” Shaw said, which means they cannot be used to continue programs previously operated and funded by other revenue sources or be used to fund special events, salaries, stipends, or rent.

For Jacob’s Ladder, the grant, which allowed them to purchase the kiln and needed supplies to get started, allowed the school to expand their financial resources and gave students the chance to create works of art that they could be proud of.

“It has been so amazing for our students. It works on fine motor skills, it’s worked on creativity and being patient and responsible and making decisions. And it is especially rewarding,” she said when someone requests a piece from a particular student.

“They feel so much pride and ownership,” Busby said.

United Way community investment grants are available for non-profit organizations that serve individuals residing in Claiborne, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren and Yazoo counties, as well Madison Parish in Louisiana.

For more information on applying for a community investment grant, call 601-831-5006.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

email author More by Terri Cowart