Thursday, July 29, 2010
Childers, ag officials visit ICS
By SUE WATSON
Congressman Travis Childers and undersecretary of USDA Rural Development Dallas Tonsager were given a hearty welcome and “thank you” from ICS Head Start and the city of Holly Springs July 7 on their tour through communities in Congressional District 1.
Childers was joined by Johnny Shell with the Batesville office of Rural Development, and by Trina George, state director of Rural Development and many aids.
The congressman and his entourage met with the public at the Marjean Taylor-Myatt Headstart Center. Director Eloise McClinton thanked Childers for helping ICS obtain a $780,000 loan and a $350,000 grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build a new eight-classroom center in Crenshaw which serves 100 children.
Don Hollingsworth with the city of Holly Springs presented an overview of a potable water extension project that will bring clean drinking water to hundreds of homes in the Marianna community.
USDA Rural Development has provided low interest loans and other funding of $12 million to $15 million in water projects in Holly Springs, Red Banks, Victoria, Lake Center and along Highway 4 East into Benton County in the last 15 years, he said.
“We have enjoyed our relationship with Johnny Shell,” Hollingsworth said. “We all work so well together - a great team.”
Future extensions are planned for Mt. Pleasant and Slayden, he said.
Hollingsworth said the City of Holly Springs has envisioned putting a water meter at every household where it has an electricity customer. People can do without electricity, but not water, he said.
Tonsager, who still claims his country and farming roots even while working in Washington, D.C., said the purpose of his visit was to get to know the state better.
“I came to see the needs and to see how we can better use our resources in the State of Mississippi,” he said. “I’m a farmer myself, so I have a pretty good understanding of agriculture. I love to see things that add value to agricultural products.”
The undersecretary and congressman met with local agricultural leaders and farmers in DeSoto County and Benton County while on their sweep through the northern counties.
George said much of the rural development work would not be possible without the federal stimulus dollars from Congress.
Childers recounted an anecdote he heard when attending a reception in honor of former Head Start director Arvern Moore - how many of the early Head Start Centers lacked running water and indoor bathrooms back in the 1960s. It was the women in the community who cooked and carried food to the centers.
Arvern Moore said the ladies crawled under the house and put in the plumbing for water at the centers to help change lives one at a time.
“This is how government is supposed to work - in partnership - this is what it is about,” he said. “Enhancing lives, changing lives, helping communities - just because our children live in rural areas does not mean our children should have substandard buildings. The 24 counties I serve, with the exception of one, are rural.
“We are not going to forget where we come from. We are going to stay country.
“Dallas didn’t have to come here today. He chose to come because he is interested in your town and Mississippi.”
Childers recognized Erma Rogers and Wencie Bailey for their service, including the cooking and plumbing work, at the early Head Start Centers.
ICS serves 13 counties and 4,041 children.
Childers thanked USDA officials for touring farming areas with him. Undersecretary Michael Scuse toured the district in December and was instrumental in helping get aid for farmers who lost crops hit by heavy rains and flooding last fall.
Also offering appreciation to Childers and officials with Rural Development was Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry, aldermen Harvey Payne and Russell Johnson and county supervisor Eddie Dixon.
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