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Agencies address educational needs
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Two public agencies are joining forces to help address the educational needs of children whose lives were disrupted by Hurricane Katrina.
"Operation ABC - Read" unites Mississippi State University's Extension Service and Mississippi Public Broadcasting to bring a wealth of resources to the remaining shelters and recovering child-care centers damaged by the storm. MPB received a $75,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and received videos and books from Sesame Workshop and WGBH-Boston to provide educational kits to impacted areas.
The Foundation for Public Broadcasting in Mississippi is providing televisions with video/digital combination players to shelters and child-care centers without similar equipment.
Marie Antoon, MPB executive director, said Extension agents will be the key to the project's success.
"We are counting on Extension agents who know the local needs and can get this equipment and materials into the hands of the ones who need it," Antoon said. "Public Broadcasting stations and supporters from across the country have stepped up to offer a variety of items for the resource kits."
The kits will include items such as Season 5 episodes of Between the Lions with corresponding books; Sesame Street shows, game boards and books; Barney coloring books and stickers; crayons and colored pencils; and other children's books and movies.
"People like to know that what they are donating is getting into the hands of the children. Our first target recipients were shelters, but the next step will be to help child-care centers that were damaged in the storm," Antoon said. "We want to help them get up and running as soon as possible with items that children need."
Beverly Howell, state program leader for Extension family and consumer sciences, said agents are already delivering televisions and resource kits to areas in need.
"This is a great opportunity to provide quality educational materials into the hands that need it the most," Howell said. "After these unsettling weeks, children will find comfort in being able to watch some of their favorite educational programs."
Howell said in some cases, shelter televisions may have been under the control of adults who wanted to watch hurricane news coverage and other programs less suited for children.
"We want to make shelters more child-friendly and help divert their attention from the more traumatic news of the day," Howell said. "We also want child-care centers and their clients to know that we care about what they have gone through and want to help."
Georgia Polk, 4-H youth agent in Rankin County, assisted with some of the first deliveries. She took seven televisions with the educational materials to Hattiesburg and Wiggins to await transportation to sites in Forrest, Pearl River and Harrison counties.
"We are all ready to do our part. I was glad to be able to transport the items from Jackson to some of the hardest hit areas," Polk said.
Shelters and child-care centers interesting in being a part of Operation ABC - Read should call Mississippi Public Broadcasting at (800) 922-9698.