Free cellphone or tablet, home COVID-19 test kits to be handed out

Published 1:26 pm Thursday, March 10, 2022

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NATCHEZ — The nonprofit Magnolia Medical Foundation will be handing out free cell phones or tablets and home COVID-19 test kits to people who meet certain criteria on March 24, 25 and 26 in Natchez.

This includes anyone 18 years old or older with an income less than $56,000, said Magnolia Medical’s founder, Dr. Erica Quinn Thompson during a special called meeting of the Natchez Adams School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday.

“That’s a lot of people in Natchez,” she said, adding “If you receive SNAP benefits or are on Medicaid, you automatically meet the criteria.”

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The distribution is federally funded, Thompson said.

She asked the school board if she could use Natchez Freshman Academy at 208 Lynda Lee Drive as a distribution point for the tablets, cell phones, and home test kits on Saturday, March 26, which the board approved unanimously.

Thompson said she already was granted permission from the Adams County Board of Supervisors to distribute the items, free of charge, on March 24 and 25 at the Providence Community Center at 230 River Terminal Road. The distribution lasts from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at both locations, she said.

“Having these locations will allow us to take the span of the area,” she said.

Thompson said they’re looking to hand out approximately 1,000 tablets and cellphones during the weekend and can order more if they run out.

“We will be able to have some shipped to us in case we need more. I’m sure we probably will.

If we do not have the tablets there, we’re able to get everyone’s application processed and come back and do another drop.”

Each tablet and cell phone will be equipped with a free five-year wireless internet plan through T Mobile, Thompson said, adding recipients can choose either a cell phone or tablet but not both. There will also be Spanish and Vietnamese translators at this event, she said.

“They can use these for school, their job or to play a game,” Thompson said.

The limit is one device per individual 18 or older that meets the eligibility criteria, she said.

Each recipient should bring a valid ID, either a driver’s license, state ID, passport or CDL, and proof of income. This could be the individual’s last three pay stubs, 2020 W2 form, 1099 form, 2020 taxes, or proof that they are a Pell Grant recipient, food stamp or SNAP benefits card, Medicaid card, child’s Medicaid card or an SSI or SSA 2021 award letter.

Each recipient will also need to provide their phone number, the last four digits of their social security number and an email.

Thompson, a native Natchezian, said Magnolia Medical Foundation’s goal is to counter health and social disparities in communities such as Natchez through a range of community programs through various partnerships and grant resources.

Founded in 2009, the foundation has five locations throughout Mississippi including one at 301 E. Franklin St. in Natchez.

“We realize that many things require internet access, from finding a job or getting an education to healthcare,” she said. “We noticed a lot of vaccination sites require recipients to schedule their appointment online and a lot of people didn’t have that capability. This program provides access to the outside world to people in rural communities missing internet access.”

The smartphone and tablet giveaway is one of many programs Magnolia Medical is using to fill needs in the community, Thompson said.  They have also worked with the Mississippi Food Network and American Heart Association to pass out boxes of food to families and have provided other services from health, workforce training to helping people buy their first home.

“We’ve given out over 20,000 pounds of food in the past two months,” she said. “We’re also HUD-certified to assist with home loans. … If Magnolia does not have what you need, then we are able to refer to many of our partners located throughout the state.”

More information about Magnolia Medical Foundation, including ways to donate to the foundation or volunteer, can be found at For more information about the giveaway of cellphones, tablets and COVID-19 home test kits on March 24, 25 and 26, call 228-343-1315 or 769-524-8002.