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Vicksburg volunteers prepare and distribute 1,000 meals to the needy



Volunteers prepare meals for delivery (Photo by Chris Tankesly)

A small group of volunteers came together to feed about 1,000 of Vicksburg’s elderly residents on Wednesday.

All Mississippi casinos were closed on March 17 by order of the Mississippi Gaming Commission due to state and federal recommendations for limiting the spread of COVID-19. With no customers Waterview, Ameristar and Lady Luck casinos in Vicksburg decided to donate their food instead of throwing it away.

Meals ready to be picked up. (Photo by Chris Tankesly)

With the coordination of Julie Ford of Caffe Paradiso, chefs Perry Boyd of the Gumbo Pot and Kevin Roberts of Fit Chef Catering made enough food for about 1,000 meals starting on Tuesday. The business owners donated their own time and that of their employees to the effort.

Then they set up tents in the parking lot on Halls Ferry Road and South Frontage Road to offer folks drive-thru convenience. Distribution began about 4 p.m. Wednesday and will continue until the food is gone.

With additional donations from Uber drivers, they were also able to deliver meals to those who couldn’t drive to pick it up.


Santa confirms that Christmas is not canceled



With such an unprecedented year — we’ve been quarantined, adults working from home (or worse, losing jobs), students learning at home, restaurants and many other businesses shutting down, and families unable to visit each other — many children have been worried and wondering if Christmas is going to be canceled, too.

Well, thanks to Facebook and some familiar elves, parents have been able to reassure children that Christmas is indeed coming.

Santa reassured children that Christmas isn’t canceled.

The post, directly from Santa himself, is easing the minds of children everywhere. The elves captioned the photo “Important notice!” and it is going viral.

In the lengthy post, Santa confirms that he will be getting out on Dec. 24, and he, too, has been taking precautions against the pandemic.

Santa wrote: “It has come to my attention that children around the world are being told by their older siblings, parents, others adults, and even friends, that Christmas is not coming this year due to the COVID pandemic.

“This is simply not true. I have been practicing social distancing just as you have.”

Santa went on to say that no one at the North Pole has been infected and safety measures are being taken before his annual deliveries.

“All the toys and other presents will be totally disinfected before and after they are wrapped and put into my sleigh for delivery to your home, or to wherever you will be this year,” he wrote. “Do not worry my friends, I will not be spreading the virus nor will I be getting sick from anyone that has it. Christmas is not canceled.”

The post has racked up hundreds of likes and comments including many from parents praising Santa for his hard work.

Micki May is one of those grateful grandparents.

“My grandson was so worried and kept asking me if Santa Claus could get the ‘rona,” she said. “He was quite relieved when I read him Santa’s Facebook post.”

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Good News

Good Shepherd distributing food boxes and turkeys to elderly and disabled residents



Volunteers at the Good Shepherd Community Center loaded up food for distribution Tuesday. (photo by Keith Phillips)

Last month, Good Shepherd Community Center had elderly and disabled residents sign up to receive Thanksgiving food boxes, and today, the center is distributing the boxes from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

“Each year, the elderly, 55-plus, and disabled sign up to receive Thanksgiving boxes to assure their needs are met during this season,” said Good Shepherd Director Cindy McCarley. “This year was more challenging with COVID, but we social distanced as best possible had made it happen.”

Individuals from the community including Warren County District 5 Supervisor Kelle Barfield, United Way of West Central Mississippi Director Michelle Connelly and Director of Community Investment Ruby Green were giving health surveys to those arriving to pick up their food boxes.

Boy Scouts Troop 7 made an appearance to volunteer along with the Junior Auxiliary, while members of the Vicksburg Police Department and Warren County Sheriff’s Office helped direct traffic.

Hinds Community College nursing students Tyneisha Strong and Diana Perez also came to pitch in.

Jo Beth Britt and Patty Montique are in charge of  checking everyone in while executive assistant Yavette Mitchell ran the show.

Many families are able to receive food boxes today, and with the help of the many volunteers, Good Shepherd is able to bless many families with good food for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Brae, the baby doll and her ink



Photo courtesy of Brae Toney.

Last month we introduced you to Brandi Rae Toney, otherwise known as Brae. She is the remarkable young woman who recently celebrated her 29th birthday despite doctors predicting she would not live past the age of 2. She is still continuing to defy the odds and living life while battling spinal muscular atrophy.

Brae chooses to document many of her life experiences and emotions through body art, so it’s no surprise the following quote from Purvy Ranaga is one of her favorites:  “Life is a canvas. It’s up to you what colours you choose to paint this canvas of life into a beautiful masterpiece.”

Like warpaint, Brae’s tattoos tell the story of the battles she has overcome. (photo courtesy Brae Toney)

Brae has several favorite tattoo artists including Dave Clark in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, Azha Sanders from Brookhaven, Mississippi, and Sizer Yerger, formerly of Monroe, Louisiana. Each has created masterpieces on various parts of her body that illustrate important parts of Toney’s life, a life that is surprisingly normal for a young woman her age and a life so many predicted she would not be living.

(Photo courtesy Brae Toney)

(Photo courtesy Brae Toney)

Each of her tattoos holds a significant meaning for Brae, but none more so than her son’s memorial tattoo.

“I was with a guy for five years on and off. We ended up getting pregnant, but the pregnancy was literally draining the life out of me, and in order to save my life we had to induce labor. I was far too early for my baby to make it,” Brae said. “A lot of people don’t see wheelchair users as romantic or able to live a normal life but I’m 29 years old, I’m mentally capable of making my own decisions, and I live my life just as anyone else would.”

Inside the heart is baby Carter’s sonogram (photo courtesy Brae Toney)

Another Ranaga quote that Brae embraces is “Every life is a canvas and every interaction is a brush; therefore we’d be wise to consider how we handle the paint.”  And when it comes to Brandi “Brae” Toney, it is certainly handled with care.

(photo courtesy Brae Toney)


(Photo courtesy Brae Toney)

We invite you to visit Brae’s website at and learn more about her and her fight against SMA. Next in our series, we will learn about the experimental medicine she is trying and how it is impacting her life.

Heather Mullins Williams contributed to this story.

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