Company volunteers help United Way campaigns in Pine Belt, Meridian

Company volunteers help United Way campaigns in Pine Belt, Meridian

Collecting more than $100,000 in school supplies for elementary schools in Kemper and Lauderdale counties, United Way officials say Mississippi Power employees “blew away” all previous Stuff the Bus campaigns, slated annually to provide supplies for needy students.

“This means a lot to our students, to our staff as well as our families here at Meridian public schools,” said Clair Huff, Poplar Springs Elementary School instructor.

United Way and Mississippi Power have partnered on the annual drive for almost a decade. The drive includes all types of school supplies from notebooks, to binders, pencils, crayons and even school uniforms.

In total, Untied Way estimates that the average elementary student must start each school year with about $300 worth of supplies, and sometimes teachers resort to personally buying supplies for those who can’t afford them.

“Teachers have said that this is a real need,” said Sara Odom, United Way of East Mississippi resource development and communications vice president. “In the Meridian Public Schools, for instance, a large percentage of the students are below the poverty level, so you can guess a lot of parents have a hard time getting $300 worth of supplies and school uniforms.”

One business alone donated more than $14,000 in supplies to the effort. Donors also include civic groups, churches and individuals, in large part coordinated by Mississippi Power’s Community Connection volunteers.

“Community involvement is very important to us as a company,” said Kyle Ladner, industrial market specialist and Community Connection vice president for the Meridian chapter. “We’ve partnered with United Way on this effort now for seven consecutive years, and it just keeps getting better.”

In Kemper County, company volunteers literally “stuffed” the bus, filling all but a few seats with school supplies for the county’s two elementary schools.

“This has been a tremendous effort on the part of Mississippi Power’s volunteers and the entire community,” said Susan Carson, Kemper County energy facility plant services team leader and Plant Ratcliffe Community Connection chapter president. “We’ve always had a great relationship with the greater Kemper County community, and today’s result personifies that relationship.”

At Kemper, company employees were even joined by players from the nationally renowned East Mississippi Community College football team, who signed autographs and helped load supplies.

Kemper County’s community leaders suggest that without Mississippi Power’s generosity with both money and time, Stuff the Bus would have never become a reality.

“Kemper County started doing this about 10 years ago with a grant,” Bernard Hulin, Chairman and founder of PACES (Parents and Community Equals Educational Success). “However, that grant was insufficient and thankfully Mississippi Power joined in and has been a consistent supporter over the years.”

Instead of a traditional Stuff the Bus campaign, the company’s Pine Belt Community Connection chapter partnered with Elkins Wholesale, Inc. in Laurel to donate more than $1,600 worth of school supplies to the Forrest and Jones County school districts.

Elkins allowed company employees to purchase the supplies at cost, which meant they could buy more items than expected.

The supplies were delivered to district offices to be dispersed to elementary schools before classes began for the 2017-18 school year.

Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), produces safe, reliable and environmentally responsible energy for nearly 187,000 customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties. Mississippi Power ranked first in the Southeastern Electric Exchange’s 2016 Safety Performance Reports and is consistently recognized as an industry leader in reliability, customer service and safety. Visit our websites at and, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.