Mississippi State University and the town of Starkville are giving back through various service projects this holiday season. Two examples of these initiatives include the United Way of North Central Mississippi’s United We Feed program and the MSU chapter of the Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority's Adopt a Troop December service event. 

United Way of North Central Mississippi holds its United We Feed project during the fall and winter months of each year. This past fall, participants have donated canned and boxed goods to various collection points within the community of Starkville, such as Kroger and Vowell’s Marketplace. 

According to Candy Crecink, executive director for United Way of North Central Mississippi, the campaign’s purpose is to restock various food pantries throughout Oktibbeha, Winston, Webster and Choctaw counties. The canned goods that are collected by the community of Starkville and MSU will help families during the holidays and the winter months.

Crecink said the United Way of North Central Mississippi has seen an increase this year in participation. 

“This year, we are seeing recognition of United We Feed. One of the things that had resulted from our prior years at United We Feed was that from one of our food pantries, 92% or more clientele were Mississippi State students and graduate students’ families. People on the Mississippi State campus heard about this and realized there was an issue to address,” Crecink said.

Many organizations within MSU have contributed this year by creating food drives of their own for the United We Feed campaign. Examples of organizations on MSU's campus that have done this include the Horticulture Club, the Baptist Student Union, MSU Thrive, the Social Work Program in the Department of Sociology and the Shackouls Honors College.  

Volunteer groups within Starkville also contribute to United Way of NCM’s United We Feed drive. Starkville organizations such as Pafford EMS of Starkville, the Mayor’s Youth Council and other MSU organizations such as the Christian sorority Sigma Phi Lambda and the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center have volunteered at Vowell’s Marketplace and other grocery stores to encourage shoppers to donate canned goods to the United Way of NCM. 

MSU’s Freshman Edge has also contributed to the United Way of NCM’s campaign by volunteering at a food pantry in Starkville. Crecink described the enthusiasm of these students as they came to volunteer.

“I looked up one day for the shelving, and I was praying that I was going to have four volunteers. We would usually shelve for two hours, and we had a good three hours' worth of work in front of us. Suddenly, these college freshmen were coming and yelling, ‘We’re here, we’re here,’ In less than 25 minutes we had over 400 bags shelved. They were so excited about being a part of this," Crecink said.

Although most of the individual food drives are now being collected, there is still a chance for students and individuals from Starkville to donate to the United We Feed campaign. 

United Way of NCM’s new campaign partner, Barnes and Noble of MSU, has helped United Way’s initiative by hosting food drives during MSU home football games.

Two large boxes for item collection will be located inside the Barnes and Noble on MSU’s campus on Nov. 28 during the Egg Bowl.  

Not only is the community of Starkville preparing to give back for Christmas, but Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority of MSU is also giving back in a unique way this Christmas.

For their December service event, members of the sorority are packing two large boxes to send overseas to two troops for Christmas.

Sigma Alpha President Kaitlyn Barber, a junior biochemistry major, said the project has a personal connection for several of the sorority’s members. 

“The way that we chose our troops is that my brother is in the Air Force right now. And then one of our other members, her fiancé is deployed for the Navy. So, it’s two different branches. They’re from different places, and they’re both going to be there for a while,” Barber said.

Each pledge class of the sorority will bring two basic items that soldiers in the two troops will need for everyday care, such as feminine products, shampoos, conditioner and soaps. Other items that can be gifted include card games, sweets, used video games and snacks. The sorority encourages handmade gifts, such as small trinkets and personal, handmade cards. Members of the sorority also plan to write letters of encouragement and thank you notes to the two troops to show support for their service.  

Vice President of Sigma Alpha Samantha Jones, a senior agriculture engineering technology and business major, said she hopes this year’s service project will provide a taste of home for soldiers serving over the holidays.

“We know that they are unfortunately going to have to be away from their families, so I think having us give them these supplies will just mean so much because we hate for them to be alone on Christmas,” Jones said.

Jones said Sigma Alpha is proud to give back to those who give up so much for our country. 

“We want nothing but to thank them for their service,” Jones said. “We think that they will be thankful for us doing this for them, and we couldn’t be prouder to be able to help them out.”

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