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Grant allows Exchange Club more impact

By Reid Posey

The Women’s Foundation of Mississippi recently awarded $670,000 in grants to institutions and organizations around the state, and one Oxford non-profit was fortunate enough to be among this year’s recipients.

Oxford’s Exchange Club Family Program received a grant to fund their Raising Mothers to Rise program that will provide parenting skills and contraception and sexual health education to pregnant teens and teen mothers.

With the funding received from the Women’s Foundation, the Exchange Club will now be able to impact not only young women from Lafayette County, but also those from neighboring Marshall, Union, Pontotoc, Calhoun, Panola and Tate counties.

Program coordinator Meg Hayden said that this additional funding essentially allows the Exchange Club to expand the scope of their existing To Love a Child program, which has been funded with help from United Way. With the grant from the Women’s Foundation, Hayden is also optimistic that their program will be able to reach a wider population base and impact even more lives across the area.

Hayden said that the program offers “classes for teen moms that focus on anything from goal setting as it relates to life goals, continuing education goals, career goals, and to prenatal care, nutrition, labor, delivery, post-partum, newborn care, stages of childcare and parenthood.”

Previously, the program has consisted of 16 weekly classes, but with the expanded funding, the Exchange Club will be able to offer two weekly classes as part of an ongoing, continual program.

Hayden said that the program will be divided into three portions.

The first component of the program will focus primarily on issues of prenatal care.

The second portion will pair teen mothers with volunteer mentor mothers, who will offer guidance through weekly contacts. Hayden said that at least one contact a month between the mentors and the teens will be an in-person meeting.

The mentor program is designed to be a bridge between the first component of the program and the third, which will consist of an ongoing teen mother support group.

Hayden said that the program’s mission will continue to be focusing on efforts to support teen mothers in finishing their educations and in facing whatever difficulties may arise. Additionally, Hayden said that the program places a large emphasis on sexual health education and the prevention of any more unwanted pregnancies.

The Exchange Club is one of 16 organizations across the state to receive grants from the Women’s Foundation, whose overall mission is the economic security for women in the state of Mississippi.

Since awarding just $68,000 in its first year of funding, the Women’s Foundation has grown to its current level of awarding $670,000. The Women’s Foundation has awarded $2.8 million since 2012 and has been able to positively impact over 4,000 women across Mississippi.

“We know that when women thrive, so does our state,” Women’s Foundation Executive Director Tracy DeVries said. “That’s why we award grants to programs that drive social change and have a lasting impact on women and their families.”

“Our grant-making focus aligns with our belief that all women should have the opportunity to obtain degrees or credentials, good jobs with benefits, and to plan their pregnancies,” said Latisha Latiker, Director of Grant Programming at the Women’s Foundation. “We are thrilled to support a broad range of programs that will help women and their families on their path to economic security.”