Alcorn to hold town hall meeting today on area’s greatest needs

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Who better to assess quality of life issues in Natchez than the residents themselves? With that in mind, Alcorn State University Cooperative Extension leaders have called a town hall-style meeting at 6 p.m. today at the Steckler Multi-Purpose Center adjacent to Natchez High School.

Debra Caples, a nutrition-health specialist with the Extension in Lorman, said a team made up of Natchez civic leaders, law enforcement officers, ministers, public officials and others have worked since November to organize the meeting, the first of 14 that will take place in the 14 southwest Mississippi counties served by Alcorn.

Described as a grassroots effort to reduce poverty and promote livelihood, the plan is what the Extension describes as its &uot;Critical Needs Initiative.&uot;

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&uot;The idea is to get together the general public and get from them their perspectives on the needs of the community that Alcorn might be able to address,&uot; Caples said. &uot;Areas of concern could be in housing, for instance, or in jobs or family and health care needs.&uot;

Alcorn instructor and Adams County Supervisor Darryl Grennell will serve as moderator. Helen Brooks of the Natchez office of the ASU Extension will be team leader.

&uot;We will break into small groups to talk about issues,&uot; Brooks said. &uot;We will gather the information and put together a database. From there, we will develop ways Alcorn can help to address specific community needs.&uot;

Caples said project leaders hope people from across the community will come to the meeting. Having diversity among participants is key to identifying the right goals to improve all residents’ quality of life.

&uot;We want anyone who wants to participate to come, any resident of the community,&uot; she said.

&uot;We want them to tell us what their needs are, what their concerns are and what Alcorn can do to help.&uot;

Brooks agreed. &uot;We are not looking for just poor people to show up. We want all residents who can come. It doesn’t matter what education level or income level. There is no gender, age or ethnic requirement,&uot; she said.

Extension leaders hope the town hall-style meetings will become a model for other universities and agencies to follow in getting involved in community problems.

&uot;We know issues confronted by rural communities in our state are not unique to Mississippi,&uot; Caples said.