By Teruco Tynes
A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi outreach ministry and an extension of Together for Hope, Delta Hands for Hope has been making strides in the local community in recent years. The nonprofit is committed to investing in and equipping school-age children with the leadership skills and educational tools necessary to advance in life. Spiritual and health related skills are enhanced through well-planned educational and recreational activities.
Nestled in the Mississippi Delta, Delta Hands for Hope was incorporated in 2013, followed by the purchase of a building and the appointment of the first program director in 2014. True to Together for Hope’s mission focus, Delta Hands for Hope centers on functioning within the asset-based community development (ABCD) framework in the town of Shaw where the population of just under two thousand is largely African-American.
Subsequent years at Delta Hands for Hope have seen the introduction of after-school programs, community beautification projects and college visits to the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State University. Summer camps are filled with arts and crafts, science projects and greenhouse activities. This summer, the youth were introduced to the new executive director, Chiquikta Fountain.
Appointed in June 2019, Fountain is a native of Drew, Mississippi. Prior to returning to her home state, she lived and worked in Colorado and Chicago. An avid defender of civil rights, Fountain has served in varying advocacy capacities. Service work in the AmeriCorps*VISTA program ignited Fountain’s passion for community development and became the springboard for her future work. At SPARK Mississippi, in connection with the Children’s Defense Fund, she held the position of early learning consultant. As a parent coach and then community coordinator at the National Office of Parents for Public Schools, Inc., Fountain touched community agencies, local and state elected officials, and administrators of school districts as she sought to impact change. She has led Parent Engagement Program (PEP) sessions, offering tools necessary for parents to find their voice as they seek to improve the achievements of public school students.
Fountain’s love for connecting with people to hear and share their stories led to a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Delta State University. She also holds a Master of Business Administration from the university.
Fountain’s presence was warmly received at this summer’s camp where her boundless energy and enthusiasm assisted with ministries such as the Summer Feeding Program which touched approximately 60 children and nearly 30 families in Shaw and surrounding areas. Already assigned an affectionate nickname, “Ms. Keta” is appreciative of the hard work and many hours put in by local volunteers and those from Oxford Baptist Church of Oxford, North Carolina, and Northminster Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi.
“We rely heavily on volunteers. We welcome and encourage volunteers,” she said.
The executive director’s advocacy goals have always focused on ensuring that communities embrace opportunities to own the change they wish to see enacted. Through empowerment and connection, Fountain believes feasible solutions can be discovered. At Delta Hands for Hope, Fountain wants to fulfill this goal as well as take it a step further by encouraging both the area’s youth and adults to strive for all that they can aspire to become.
“If nothing else comes from my being here, it is realizing that the sky is the limit,” Fountain explained.
With her life’s journey as an example, Fountain wants the Shaw community to know that through a connection with Christ and continuous spiritual growth, anyone can ascend to a leadership position. Although the journey to the top is not an easy one, it is attainable. As such, Fountain pledges to reach out to parents with a key message on self-care and goal-setting.
It is important for the youth to have goals and dreams for a successful future, and just as important for parents to be reminded to not neglect their objectives, seeking to realize their individual ambitions. Delta Hands for Hope offers adult educational courses such as pharmacy technician training and collaborates with Delta State University for lifestyle courses on topics such as healthy eating and smart budgeting.
The future looks bright under the new leadership with plans to further strengthen partnerships as community assets are tapped to actualize a vision of Delta Hands for Hope as a joint pillar in the Shaw, Together for Hope, and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship coalition.
“What I desire to see happen here is everything that is said to be the work of God.”
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. Learn more at www.cbf.net.