GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi State University's extension service has twelve Child Care Resource and Referral Centers across the state. One of those is in Harrison County, tucked away at the Jefferson Davis campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
"We have a wealth of resources. Books, toys games," said Jocelyn Bass, the site coordinator for the center. "Creative play, costumes, all free of charge. Just come in, fill out an application just like a library, and children can have these resources and learn and play all at the same time."
Loretta Guthrie is a student at MGCCC. She admits the resource library is a hidden treasure for parents in Harrison County. She just happened to stumble upon it on her way to class about two years ago. Now, she's constantly coming in to check things out for her two sons.
"It's a well-kept secret," says Guthrie. "I try to spread the word with all my friends. I even have friends that don't go to school here that I tell them, 'Go check it out; I'm telling you, you'll be shocked by what's in there.'"
Guthrie uses the library as a way to reward her boys, ages four and five, for a job well done.
"If they do good at school all week, then on Thursday and Friday we'll come in and let them pick out [things]. They run around, check out everything, and let them pick out what they want to play with until the next week."
Audrey Kasalis lives in Biloxi, and is also a regular.
"It's just so useful for every age," Kasalis said. "I have an eight-month-old, a four-year-old and a six-year-old, and I come and use it for all of them."
Before becoming a mom, Kasalis used to work with children, so she has a deep appreciation for what the center has to offer.
"It gives parents an extra tool," explained Kasalis. "We're always looking for things to help our children enhance their learning, their different learning styles. Every child is different and you need different things for every child. And it can get so expensive to buy all those things."
So it may be well worth the trip to see if the center has what you're looking for before going out and buying a new toy.
Bass said they see about fifteen people a week, but she'd love to see more.
"It's free of charge to anybody, child care providers, parents, grandparents. Anybody that has any link to children are welcome to come out."
The Resource and Referral Center is located in the L Building on the Jeff Davis Campus of MGCCC in Gulfport. It caters to children from birth to age five. The center can also help new parents find child care services near them. If you'd like more information, just call (228) 897-3851.
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