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Excel by 5 family resource center closing — for now

For three years, parents and teachers of children 5 and under had a place to go to check out educational toys at no cost to help provide infants and preschoolers a fun way to learn.

Last week, the Lafayette Oxford University Excel by 5 Coalition Family Resource Center announced it would be closing its doors due to funding cuts.

The resource center was run in conjunction with the Mississippi Child Care Research and Referral Network and Mississippi State University Extension Service. Its main funding came from an Early Years Network grant.

The Mississippi Department of Human Services ended its contract with MSU for its early childhood program last month. The Early Years Network program is housed in the MSU Extension Service and funded by the Mississippi Department of

Human Services Division of Early Childhood Care and Development to provide early care and education programs and materials for teachers, directors, children and families to help improve the well-being of Mississippi’s children.

In Oxford, the LOU Excel by 5 partnered with MSU to extend its services in Oxford and opened the resource center in 2013 near the old Oxford Mall in a building owned by the University of Mississippi.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Edy Dingus, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County. “This all came about very suddenly. It’s so very sad for our community and our state. We know how valuable it is for all families.”

May reopen in January

Dingus said representatives from the United Way, McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, and Excel by 5 met recently to discuss ways to keep the resource center open in Oxford.

“We hope to reopen in January,” Dingus said. “We should be able to reopen without having to find many funds.”

Excel by 5 owns about 10 percent of the books, toys and other materials the resource center provided local parents and caregivers.

“We are in talks with MSU Extension Services in hopes that we can retain all materials,” Dingus said. “The McLean Institute has agreed to help us keep the current location in the interim.”

Dingus said anyone who checked out materials from the resource center is being asked to return them as soon as possible. She said there should be someone with the Early Years Network at the location until Friday to accept returns.

“If someone misses the closing, they can call United Way or drop the toys off at our office during normal business hours,” Dingus said.