HCHRA Teams Up with OrganWise Guys for Early Childhood Health

Hinds County Human Resource Agency’s Head Start program has teamed up with America’s number one nutrition education organization – The OrganWise Guys – to provide Head Start centers with impactful resources that will teach the students about the organs in their bodies and how to keep them healthy and working properly.  

HCHRA received a portion of a $1.14 million grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded to the Mississippi Food Network to improve health equity and literacy in children ages 2-10 in various low-income communities of Jackson, East Biloxi and Sunflower County, that would effect change through practical application by using evidence-based programs and resources.   HCHRA used the unrestricted, non-federal grant funds to purchase Early Childhood Kits for each of its 16 Head Start centers.  The age-appropriate kits are designed to be shared by the teachers, and they are re-usable.  They include OrganWise Guy and Gal dolls, organ beanies, calendars, videos, posters, and access to the Foods of the Month website for monthly resources and downloadable activities.


HCHRA Nutrition Services Specialist Alphonso Lee states, “The OrganWise Guys focuses on combating childhood obesity and helps kids to be healthy from the inside out. It’s an evidence-based program and has been proven to be an effective teaching tool.”  Health Services Specialist Anupria Davenport agreed, “The program teaches children about the organs and their nutritional needs, how their organs work, how certain foods interact with the inside of their bodies, and how proper nutrition helps their bodies grow.”  Director of Children’s Services Dr. LaTessa Long added, “Our center administrators and teachers have been trained on how to use the kits and implemented the program in the classrooms at the start of the 2018-19 school year.  They are using it to help our kids learn more about the organs of the body in a fun, educational way, while also teaching them how to keep their bodies healthy.  The OrganWise Guys were recommended by the Mississippi Department of Education through its Office of Child Nutrition as a great learning tool for students. We are grateful to have received a portion of the grant to serve our Head Start community.”   To learn more about HCHRA and its Head Start programs and services, visit www.hchra.org/programs or call 601.923.3930.

Project SOAR! Making It Count for the Community

Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) hosted Project SOAR – a massive community services, opportunities, assistance and resources fair – on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at Fondren Hall in Jackson, Mississippi. More than 300 people attended the fair and received a wealth of information on education, finance, health, social and legal services from speakers and exhibitors.

HCHRA organized Project SOAR to promote awareness about the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and make it readily available to anyone in need who met the qualifications for the program.  LIHEAP is a federal grant that offers assistance to help low-income families pay their energy bills for heating or cooling their homes, and offers additional help in cases of energy crisis, such as utility shutoffs for households in immediate danger of being without heating or cooling.  LIHEAP is funded by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and is awarded to HCHRA by the Mississippi Department of Human Services.  HCHRA administers LIHEAP for the entire Hinds county area.  The assistance provided through LIHEAP allows families to use their limited income to address other household needs and create greater stability in the home.

HCHRA has seen a tremendous need for LIHEAP.  The need is so great, in fact, they exhausted all of the 2018 funds months before the year ended, which was one of the primary reasons for holding Project SOAR so early in the year.  “Without being able to turn to HCHRA for help over the last several months, we knew that a lot of families were facing some pretty dire situations,” said HCHRA President and CEO Kenn Cockrell.  “We’re talking senior citizens and people with disabilities who are on a small fixed income and are not able to work.  We’re also talking about people who actually go to work every day, but still don’t earn enough to cover basic living expenses.  We wanted to host Project SOAR as soon as we received our 2019 LIHEAP allocation in hopes of providing some immediate relief.”  Normally, Hinds customers are required to schedule an appointment at one of HCHRA’s service sites to receive assistance.  At Project SOAR, no appointment was required.  Customers were seen on a first-come, first-served basis and HCHRA was able to meet with approximately 200 Hinds County residents on the spot to determine eligibility and provide assistance to anyone who qualified.


In addition to providing utility payment assistance at Project SOAR, HCHRA connected families with other valuable resources to help create some relief from the financial stress that many low-income families experience.  Health screenings were provided by St. Dominic’s.  More than 73 people signed up for the CreditPlus wealth building and financial management program with BankPlus, and a myriad of other information and services were provided by UnitedHealthcare, Entergy, Mississippi Center for Legal Services Corporation, Mississippi Behavioral Health Services, Ava Family Services, Feeding the Gulf Coast, and Mississippi Smiles.  HCHRA also had staff on hand to provide information about the Head Start education program and the disabilities services it provides to preschool children, infants and toddler, the senior programs the agency offers, adult education, family and employment opportunities.

If you are in need of assistance but you were unable to attend Project SOAR, call HCHRA at                  (601) 962-5935 to schedule an appointment with a family opportunities advisor to discuss available opportunities.  

Let’s Have CLASS!

It’s not always easy to ace an exam, let alone conquer it on the first try.  That’s what was accomplished when a group of HCHRA staff persons took a CLASS observation training course December 5-7 2018, to become CLASS certified observers/monitors for their Head Start center classrooms.

CLASS stands for the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, an observational instrument developed at the Curry School Center for Advanced Study of  Teaching and Learning that measures the quality of interactions between teachers and students in PK-12 classrooms. Those observations are then rated using a manual of behaviors and responses.  The CLASS can be used to reliably assess classroom quality for research and program evaluation and also provides a tool to help new and experienced teachers become more effective.

According to the CLASS trainer, nearly all the teachers passed the CLASS Reliability exam on the first try with high scores ranging from 90 to 95. The agency invested in 34 staff persons to attend the training — 17 became CLASS Reliable, 5 of which were center administrators.  The remaining 17 will become CLASS Reliable in the spring.  According to Chelsea Luster, HCHRA’s associate vice president of Head Start and Early Head Start Programs,  “Our teachers are now qualified and certified to observe other teachers’ interactions with students.  The training will also help organize teachers’ expansion of the students’ knowledge and regard for the students’ perspectives.  It is great to see our staff elevate to a new level of reaching our students in the classroom.”

HCHRA Receives Donation to Help Promote Literacy

Hinds County Human Resource Agency’s (HCHRA) Early Head Start program received a cash donation and a collection of children’s books from Ms. Mary S. Jones to help promote early childhood literacy.

Jones, standing on the left, is photographed presenting a $200 donation to Dr. LaTessa Long, HCHRA’s director of Children’s Services, in support of the agency’s Early Head Start literacy program.  Jones said she wanted to make the donation because she enjoys helping children.  She specifically requested that the books be donated to The Della J. Caugills Early Head Start, which was named in honor of her sister, Mrs. Della J. Caugills, who worked at HCHRA for more than 41 years and served as education director for the agency’s Head Start programs.

HCHRA is a public nonprofit Community Action Agency dedicated to helping families and strengthening communities.  For more than 41 years, HCHRA has built its solid reputation in eradicating poverty by empowering disadvantaged Hinds County citizens to become self-reliant and realize their full potential.  For more information on the agency’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs, click here.  To learn how you can support program development and provide additional opportunities for disadvantaged citizens, call (601) 923-3930 and ask for Planning and Development.

HCHRA Receives $20,000 Innovative Community Project Award

Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) was selected by the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Association of Community Action Agencies (MACAA) to receive the 2018 Innovative Community Project Award.

The Innovative Community Project Award was established by the Mississippi Department of Human Services to encourage Community Action Agencies throughout the state to accurately identify community needs, strategically develop solutions to the needs identified, and in turn, deliver high-quality services that yield measurable outcomes.

A panel made up of representatives from MDHS and MACAA reviewed the project submissions and selected HCHRA based on the merit of their application and program excellence.  Candace McDermott, executive director for MACAA, says Hinds County Human Resource Agency was the clear frontrunner for the award.  “They continue to show excellence in their projects and the impact they have on communities,” said McDermott. “They consistently meet organizational standards reviews, produce results and exhibit accountability.  They are a good role model for other agencies.”

After going through a stringent review process which looks at total program operations, ingenuity and service delivery, HCHRA was chosen from among 18 agencies in Mississippi to receive the $20,000 Innovative Community Project Award, which will be used to support ongoing operations and expand services.  HCHRA was announced as the recipient of the award at the MACAA Annual Conference held in December.

HCHRA is a public, non-profit Community Action Agency dedicated to helping families and strengthening communities.  For more than 41 years, HCHRA has built its solid reputation in eradicating poverty by empowering disadvantaged Hinds County citizens to become self-reliant and realize their full potential.  Through its Head Start, Early Head Start, congregate and home-delivered meals, home energy assistance, rural transportation, and case management programs, HCHRA continues to improve the conditions of children, families, single adults, the elderly and the disabled throughout Hinds County.  For more information on HCHRA programs and services, click here.

Hinds County Human Resource Agency Hosts 26th Annual Christmas Smorgasbord Luncheon

Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) held its 26th Annual Christmas Smorgasbord Luncheon at its Central Office location on December 19, 2018.  The agency came together to celebrate the Christmas holiday season, and to fellowship with not only employees, but also with community leaders and elected officials throughout Hinds County, and with corporate partners from around the state.

Close to 300 guests enjoyed a wonderful holiday feast which consisted of turkey, ham, dressing and a variety of sides and desserts. HCHRA gave away door prizes that ranged from gift cards to ceramic dishes, bed sets and wall lamps – all donated by friends and supporters of the agency.  While the Smorgasbord has built up quite a reputation for having good food and gifts, the biggest attraction seems to be the Christmas decorations.

Each year, HCHRA holds an annual Christmas decorating competition among each department at Central Office to see which one comes out on top.  Administration, Children Services, Department of Family Opportunities, Fiscal, Head Start Administration, and Personnel were all a part of the competition.  The first place winner receives three days off with pay, second place receives two, while third place receives one.  Individual staff persons also have the opportunity to decorate their offices and office doors in hopes of winning a day off for a first place reward.  An independent panel of judges is selected from outside of the agency, and departments are judged on theme, creativity, originality, showmanship and special effects.  “While decorating is a serious competition among colleagues, the contest was created as a fun way to promote team building and create a festive environment for our employees as well as our guests to enjoy,” said Kenn Cockrell, HCHRA president and CEO.  The theme for the competition – “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” – really lived up to its name.  

“Staff came together and totally transformed Central Office into all things Christmas,” said Cockrell.  Administration won first place, with Children’s Services coming in second, and Head Start Administration coming in third.  Linda Norwood, purchasing specialist, won first place for best individual office, and Carlene Parker, communications specialist, won first place for best individual door.

The Christmas Smorgasbord came to a close with everyone joining in to sing Christmas carols, but not before the agency’s CEO shared words of appreciation and well wishes for the new year.  “I would like to thank everyone for coming here today and for the role that each of you plays in helping HCHRA remain successful.  I appreciate your hard work and dedication.  Let’s continue to reach new heights in 2019,” said Cockrell.  

Hinds County Human Resource Agency’s 2018 Community Strengths and Needs Assessment: Invoking Change

The Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) held recently met with its employees to discuss the findings of its 2018 Community Strengths and Needs Assessment (CSNA). The purpose of the CSNA meeting was to endeavor to shift HCHRA’S focus from not only managing programs and providing short-term solutions to low-income individuals within the Hinds County community, but also to better understand its clientele in order to create success plans and offer opportunities that would positively strengthen and transform a family’s well-being long-term.

The Community Strengths and Needs Assessment is a community-wide report released each year to idenitify the strengths and resources available in the community to meet the needs of children, youth, and families of Hinds County. The assessment focuses on the needs as well as the capabilites of the community, including citizens, agencies and organizations. HCHRA used the report to identify the more specific needs of the citizens of Hinds County in order to help lift its citizens out of poverty conditions through the various services they offer to seniors, those with disabilities or low-income individuals.

The HCHRA CSNA meeting provided a comprehensive assessment to its employees on the ongoing quantitative and qualitative needs within the Hinds County community. David Kinght, Executive VP and COO for HCHRA, stated, “We want to ensure that we are all aware and can communicate to and advocate for the people and communities we serve. In order to do that at top capacity, we must be up to date on our strengths and needs associated with our service areas.” Roger Lutrell,  Vice President of Planning & Development, added, “We first identified the demographic composition of the county to identify HCHRA’s primary constituents. Secondly, we collected surveys from those constituents as well as community partners and understood better what areas ranked as priorty within the community. We will use this information to strengthen constituent relationships and continue to be an agent of change in Hinds County.”

Mr. Knight also stated that this year’s CSNA advanced to be one of HCHRA’s strongest assessments to date. Based on the research and analysis of data gathered, in order to alleviate poverty, HCHRA must not only provide safety net programs, but also treat the trends and conditions of poverty. HCHRA believes that the best position to achieve results would be to focus on employment, education, and housing during the next 2-3 years.

To access the full 2018 Community Strengths and Needs Assessment, visit www.hchra.org and go to Reports & Plans under Popular Topics.

Hinds County Human Resource Agency Holds IMPACT Training

Hinds County Human Resource Agency (HCHRA) Project Head Start conducted its “Together, Let’s Make an IMPACT” In-Service Training on November 19, 2018, at the Jackson Marriott Hotel.  IMPACT is acronym that stands for integrity, motivation, professionalism, accountability, change, and teamwork. Participants received useful information on engaging and interactive processes during the training that can be readily applied to their daily tasks.

The workshop included training sessions on effective class concepts and strategies, health and safety practices, conflict resolution strategies, best practices for nutrition services, and instruction on the Virtual ROMA system as well as the ROMA (results-oriented management and accountability) Cycle.

Several in-service training sessions are held throughout each school year for Head Start staff, which is part of the Agency’s ongoing commitment to ensure that staff is accurately trained and equipped with the tools that provide the best possible environment for children and families who are a part of the Head Start program at HCHRA.

For more information on HCHRA’s Head Start program, or any of its other programs and services, visit www.hchra.org.

It’s Not Too Late to Give

The Hinds County Human Resource Agency’s (HCHRA) held its 24th Annual Awards and Recognition Gala held on September 28, 2018 at the Jackson Marriott. The Annual Awards and Recognition Gala is Hinds County Human Resource Agency’s annual signature event, which helps to provide matching funds for a range of services such as home-delivered meals, congregate meal sites, and Hinds County rural public transportation. Assisting low-income families throughout the community advance to self-reliance and self-sufficiency is what the Agency does each day to fulfill its mission.  With the support of community partners, employees and volunteers, the Agency helped to better the lives of more than 15,000 children, families, seniors and citizens with disabilities last year.

The annual gala generates funds to help ensure the Agency’s programs and services remain accessible to those in need. The 2018 celebration began with a gathering of sponsors at a pre-function reception. Our top-level sponsors were Dr. Kellie Lane and Warrior Nation Ministries (Diamond Sponsor); BankPlus, Entergy, and UnitedHealthcare (Platinum Sponsors); and Mississippi Group Marketing and The Mississippi Link (Gold Sponsors).  Silver sponsors were C Spire and Kenn Cockrell and Family. Bronze sponsors were Atmos Energy, Jackson Advocate, Mississippi Development Authority, Nulinx International, Inc./COPA, Patty Peck Honda, Phelps Dunbar, Risk Management Partners, Inc., Shady Grove M.B. Church, and Watkins, Ward and Stafford, PLLC.  Friendship sponsors were the HCHRA Advisory Committee, David A. Knight and Dr. Natasha Phillips, Chelsea Luster, Roger Lutrell, and Willie and Kathleen McGriggs.

The most important part of the celebration was the recognition of the 2018 Bootstrap Award recipients. Bootstrap awards are presented to individuals who have demonstrated the will to overcome very challenging life situations, and with HCHRA resources, assistance, and great effort, these honorees have achieved major accomplishments by pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. Bootstrap Awards were presented to Robbie Hooker, Keidra Hooks Anderson, Nakoma McDuffy, and Billy Myrick.

Ms. Maggie Wade, News Anchor/Reporter for WLBT 3 On Your Side & WDBD Fox40, served as keynote speaker.  A fabulous silent auction, a wonderful dinner and the phenomenal Time to Move band made the night even more spectacular.

HCHRA is a public nonprofit Community Action Agency dedicated to helping families and strengthening communities.  If you’re looking to support an organization that truly makes a difference, considering giving to HCHRA.  Donations are tax-deductible.  Every contribution made by December 31st will go towards its 2018 fund development efforts and will help to ensure that greater opportunities are available in the year to come.

HCHRA is truly grateful to each of its sponsors, supporters, volunteers and employees for their tireless commitment to serving the community through Hinds County Resource Agency.  The work we do would not be possible without your support.

If you questions or need additional information on HCHRA programs and services, visit www.hchra.org or contact Planning & Development at 601.923.3930.