Biloxi Excel by 5 brings new family resource center to residents

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Meggan Gray – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Imagine a place where parents can "check out" toys like books.  A place that has a room completely devoted to blocks, or even special rooms designed just for parents to come and play with their toddlers.  Soon, it will all be reality.

As part of Biloxi's quest to become an Excel by 5 certified community, volunteers are transforming part of Lopez Elementary into a brand new Family Resource Center.

"This place is going to be a terrific resource for families, as well as childcare centers, family home providers, anybody who's working with children birth to five," says Carol Burnett, President of the Biloxi Excel by 5 coalition.

Each room is designed to inspire parents to interact with their children through a variety of activities, specifically geared to children five and under.  But coalition member Lisa Garriga Wold is most excited about the toy library.

"This toy lending library is available for everyone in the community to come in with their child and check out the materials to work with their child."

Wold taught for the Biloxi school district for 30 years, and says she always recognized a difference in students who had experience with daycare or childcare, and those who stayed home.

"And it's they haven't been involved in a group social gatherings with other children and exposed to some of the things they need to know before Kindergarten to start the first day. So this will close the gap for those kids that were not ready before."

"What better way to help with public education than to be a part of a statewide effort in helping children be ready for Kindergarten," says Sarah Miller of Beau Rivage.  She's heading up the team of Beau Rivage volunteers working at the Family Resource Center this week, as part of their MPACT project.

"Community partners, and the community coming together is the only way that these things can happen," says Miller.  "You know we've heard it said many times, 'it takes a village to raise a child,' and it really does."

"We didn't have anything done three days ago," says Wold.  "And they have just come in and taken over and just painted, and sorted, and put together things."

And the work doesn't stop there.  Beau Rivage has made a commitment to continue to help once the center opens.

"Our plan is to make this center our priority in 2011," explains Miller.  "To do some informational classes, to send volunteers over to do whatever it is they'll need done to keep this center going.  It's just, It's a great thing for Biloxi."

Again, Biloxi is getting very close to becoming Excel by 5 certified, and that's large in part to the volunteers and their many community partners. The Biloxi School district, for instance, gave the coalition the space at Lopez Elementary for the new resource center.

The city's only Family Resource Center will open by the end of the year.

If you'd like to learn more about how you can get involved in Excel by 5, or donate to the new resource center call the Biloxi school district at (228) 374-1810 and ask for Susan Hunt.

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