Resource Fair-turned cookout raises awareness for disabled community

2017-05-13 5:40 pm

LIFE of MS , MDRS and Our Artworks made the paper for Annual Spring Cookout and Resource Fair. Over 300 individuals attended. Hometown Healthcare provided and cooked 300 hotdogs and. 250 hamburgers. Thanks to all the volunteers, staff, agencies, City of Tupelo, Daily Journal, WTVA/WLOV, Invation Mag., and the people!! This was an Empowering event of INPENDENCE!!

Excerpt from the Daily Journal:

TUPELO – Tara Christian, 39, has worked for Living Independence for Everyone (LIFE) of Mississippi for seven years. She started out as a volunteer and worked her way up to independent living specialist, where she travels to businesses and homes to encourage those with disabilities to live independently.

Her inspiration? Emily Word, the community outreach director for LIFE of MS and Christian’s best friend from high school. Word severed her spine at the age of 19 while helping two guys work on a home.

“We were really close,” Christian said. “It was so scary because we didn’t have other friends who were disabled or in a wheel chair, but she pushed on and finished school. I love her to death.”

On Tuesday, Christian and Word worked together with LIFE of MS to host the annual Spring Cookout. The organization, which helps provide support to those affected by disabilities in Lee County and the surrounding areas, partnered with several health services in order to help bring the community together through awareness, knowledge and networking.

LIFE of MS invited clients, agencies, state and local officials and the general public to learn about resources available to those with disabilities. Hot dogs, burgers and refreshments were available to the public, free of charge.

Living with a disability can be challenging, but one of things LIFE of MS attempts to promote is the idea of living independently. Christian said the cookout is the perfect chance for those with disabilities to do just that.

“People like to get out and socialize,” Christian said. “A lot of these people are confined to their homes all day, but if you get in your own little bubble at home by yourself it can get lonely. It’s healthy to have some support in your life.”

Natalie Gunnells works at Thomas Street, a locally owned pharmacy located behind McDonalds on West Main Street. Gunnells, who is the mother of a special needs child, understands the challenges those with disabilities face. She believes the services and resources LIFE of MS offers is meaningful to this community.

“We reached out to LIFE of MS to see what we could do to help, and they have been very receptive,” Gunnells said. “The fact that they offer resources to help people stay in their homes is so important, and the fact that they want to hold this cookout today to show what they have to offer is so wonderful. I can’t imagine a community without them.”

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