The Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus (MDGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders throughout the eight-state Delta region, which stretches from southern Illinois down to New Orleans, Louisiana.

Medical Experts Support Gov.Hutchinson on Health Care, as well as Tennessee & Alabama Plans

Posted on January 23, 2015 at 04:10 PM

Contact: White County Medical Center Marketing Director Brooke Pryor at (501) 278-3229 Or Caucus Director Lee Powell (202) 360-6347

The Delta Grassroots Caucus supports Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s thoughtful position to continue funding for the Private Option in 2016 while considering changes and improvements in Arkansas’ health care plan.

Many health care professionals and grassroots leaders from across the eastern half of Arkansas as well as Tennessee and Alabama endorse our region’s constructive efforts to increase health insurance coverage.

Bo Ryall, CEO and President of the Arkansas Hospital Association, said “”Governor Hutchinson has provided us with a plan to continue insuring more than 200,000 Arkansans and a pathway to studying the entire health care system. We support his vision.”

Caucus Director Lee Powell said “We commend Gov. Hutchinson for announcing that he will support continued funding for the Private Option in 2016, his recognition of the benefits in providing insurance to more than 200,000 Arkansans, the savings for hospitals, providing federal budget aid in 2016 for the state government.

We are also open to his concerns about work responsibility, more emphasis on preventive care, cost controls and other legitimate concerns as the new approach moves forward.”

Chris Barber, St. Bernard’s Health Care in Jonesboro’s President and CEO, said “We were pleased with the overall direction that Gov. Hutchinson indicated he will take in terms of extending the private option for a specific period of time while looking for cost-saving reforms that will provide the state more flexibility in the way it provides healthcare coverage to Arkansans.”

Barber said the governor “obviously sees benefits in the fact previously uninsured individuals have been able to acquire healthcare coverage as well as that the program has helped hospitals reduce the amount of uncompensated care delivered. His approach does two important things – it keeps affordable coverage for more than 200,000 newly insured Arkansans and it helps hospitals and providers plan for the near future.”

Ray Montgomery, CEO of the White County Medical Center serving a large portion of east central Arkansas, said if the state’s leaders should “continue to support the Private Option Plan. Our hospital has seen a dramatic shift in our mix of patient coverage.”

Montgomery said, “As expected acute admissions are up in part due to some past pent-up demand as well as a very violent flu season. Emergency room visits are up some 13%. Total admissions are up 9%. Due to the Private Option, we have seen our self-pay reduced by over 60%. That has shifted to commercial incurance increasing by 31% and Medicaid increasing by 42%.”

Montgomery said in commending the benefits of the Private Option that “Because people have access, utilization is up but costs are down. Access leads to a healthier Arkansas.”

Rep. Mark McElroy, Delta Caucus Vice Chairman from southeast Arkansas, said “Arkansas is a national leader for our innovative health care plan, and our Delta Caucus colleagues in Alabama and Tennessee are supporting generally similar bipartisan initiatives supported by Gov. Robert Bentley (R-AL) and Gov. Bill Haslam (R-TN).”

Dr. Steven Collier of Augusta, CEO of ArCare, a nonprofit health care organization serving 11 east Arkansas counties, said “Funding the Private Option Healthcare Plan is the right thing to do for Arkansas… one thing is certain, a healthier population with access to health care is long overdue in eastern Arkansas. Funding the Private Option will be a significant step in the right direction.”

Dr. Glen Bryant, an ophthalmologist based in West Memphis, said “I support the private option. this plan is an Arkansas solution.”

Kevin Smith of Smith Insurance Agency in Helena-West Helena, who has extensive experience in signing up many Arkansans to the Private Option, said “the Private Option has been a Godsend for so many of our customers. Unfortunately, we have had to turn down people from across the Mississippi River because their state does not have the same option as Arkansas. It makes a big impact on many lives in the Arkansas Delta.”

West Tennessee grassroots leader Minnie Bommer, who serves on the City Council of Covington, Tennessee, said “Tennessee is in the process of joining Arkansas in increasing health insurance for large numbers of people in Tennessee by Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee Plan. Many grassroots leaders across the state are joining forces to encourage implementation of this very constructive effort for the health of our people.”

Gov. Haslam described his state’s initiative by saying, “The Insure Tennessee plan is a conservative approach that introduces market principles to Medicaid, provides health care coverage to more Tennesseans at no additional cost to taxpayers, and leverages a payment reform initiative that is working to control health care costs and improve the quality of care. I believe this plan is a critical first step to fundamentally changing health care in Tennessee.” A special session of the Tennessee legislature on the Insure Tennessee plan is set for Feb. 2.

Delta grassroots colleagues in the Alabama Black Belt have been in communication with Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama in supporting his efforts to extend health insurance coverage as well, so there is now a regional trend in favor of greater health insurance in five of the eight Greater Delta Region states: Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Illinois.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The private option program is providing health insurance for more than 200,000 lower income Arkansans who previously did not have any. Arkansas ranks first in the nation in reduction of uninsured people, due to the private option–in the first six months of implementation, the number of uninsured Arkansans receiving inpatient services in hospitals dropped by 46.5%.

In that period, the number of uninsured patients receiving emergency room care declined by 35.5% In that period, the private option reduced uncompensated care costs for uninsured patients for the state’s hospitals by $69 million as compared with the same period in 2013.

Health care professionals have emphasized that without the private option, Arkansas hospitals were facing more than $400 million in uncompensated care costs in 2014, but the private option is estimated to have cut that figure approximately by more than half.

– The private option helps hospitals stay open. Starting in 2010, federal laws started going into force that will result in $2.5 billion in cuts to Medicare reimbursements to Arkansas hospitals over the next 10 years. The private option provides a way to offset a substantial amount of the losses from Medicare cuts.

States that did either expand Medicaid or develop their own state version of the private option saw many hospitals close. In Louisiana, where the state government is an especially adamant foe of anything having to do with the Affordable Care Act, health care costs have risen 18% over the same period when they have declined in Arkansas.

–The federal funding for the private option is a budgetary advantage of $89 million. If this is lost, the only way to make it up is through cuts in education or other essential state services. We would also be faced with the dilemma of how to come up with the lost revenue if the private option is abolished.

Hospitals are major employers in Arkansas, employing over 42,000 people with a payroll of approximately $5 billion. More hospital closures would be devastating for economy, whereas thriving hospitals are a significant economic engine.

Delta Caucus Conference Set on May 26-27, 2015 in Little Rock--Save the Dates

Posted on December 30, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Please save the dates for the annual spring Delta Grassroots Caucus conference on May 26-27, 2015 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus hopes all our partners are having a good holiday season and we look forward to another constructive year of advocacy for the community and economic progress of our region in 2015.

Over the two day event next spring we will have a dialogue with federal and state “powers that be” as well as grassroots leaders from all eight states on a broad range of initiatives for the region’s community and economic development, including: Women and children’s issues and support for the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings initiative, job creation and workforce development, the private option and other health care plans and other Delta states, a dialogue on race relations and civil rights, Delta heritage tourism, expanding trade to Cuba and other new markets, transportation, housing, and other infrastructure improvements.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Basic Schedule

  2. Key Issues

  3. Conference registration fees

  4. Group hotel (Holiday Inn Presidential)

  5. Women and Children’s Issues

  6. A Partial List of Some of the Distinguished Women Leaders for the Delta Grassroots Caucus

BASIC SCHEDULE:

Opening session: Tuesday, May 26, 2015, 4 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., Arkansas State Capitol (the old Arkansas Supreme Court room)

Clinton Library session: Wednesday, May 27, 2015, from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library.

We plan to invite President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton to do live presentations by Skype or audio connection, although of course if they are able to speak they will confirm much later in the process. We will be inviting Governor-Elect Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas Congressional delegation, and distinguished grassroots leaders from all eight states from southern Illinois and Missouri, through western Kentucky and Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi down to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt.

2. Key issues will include:

Women and children’s issues in the context of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project for full participation of women and girls in the Delta and across the globe;

An in-depth dialogue about the full range of race relations and civil rights issues across our region in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Missouri controversy, including but not limited to police issues;

The private option health care plan in Arkansas and other initiatives to increase access to health insurance in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Illinois (the other three states may consider new health care policies next year as well);

Job creation, education and workforce development, which are always at the forefront in working toward a brighter future for our region;

Expanding trade for the region, such as the opportunity for opening up trade to Cuba in the light of changing relationships with that country, especially for rice, poultry and other agricultural products that our region produces in abundance;

Investments in transportation, housing, broadband expansion and other infrastructure improvements;

Promotion of Delta heritage tourism, including what will be the last chance to save the historic steamboat, the Delta Queen in 2015 by passing legislation to allow the riverboat to resume her historic travels on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The delays in passing this highly meritorious bill have been particularly damaging and 2015 will be the last chance to save the Delta Queen.

3. Registration Fees for May 26-27, 2015 Delta Conference

Early registration fees are $125, which is $100 for conference registration fees and $25 for annual membership dues for 2015. Those who pay the annual membership dues for the year 2015 will receive a $25 discount for registering for our annual fall conference, which is held at different locations either in the Delta or in Washington, DC, depending on feedback we receive over the year as to the best location for that event.

Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

The early registration fee level ends on April 25, 2015; late registration fees go up to $150 each after April 25 to provide an incentive to get the fees in on time.

Annual dues are a minimum of $25, paid once each calendar year, although for medium-sized or larger banks, chambers of commerce, colleges and universities, corporations, foundations or those who want to donate more, suggested contributions are $50 or $100.

We are steadily placing more emphasis on collecting annual membership dues and we greatly appreciated all our partners who paid annual membership dues in 2014.

If you would like to pay for 2014 by sending a check by the deadline of Dec. 31, 2014 please do so.

The dues are paid once each calendar year and membership dues for the year 2015 begin on Jan. 1, 2015.

Delta Caucus corporate status: As we regularly note in the spirit of transparency, the Delta Grassroots Caucus, Inc. is incorporated as a regular corporation and not as a 501c3, because we occasionally take positions on public policy positions that in some quarters might be considered controversial, and while the majority of our activities are informational/educational, we also occasionally do some limited lobbying. 501c3 organizations have major restrictions on lobbying or engaging in activities that might be considered “politically controversial,” particularly pertaining to elections. The Delta Caucus places the highest priority on maximum freedom of expression.

All our budget comes from voluntary, private sector donations in the form of registration fees for the two regional conferences each spring and fall; annual membership dues once a year with a minimum requirement of $25, with the option of $50 or $100 for those who choose to give more; and a small number of highly valued sponsorships.

4. GROUP HOTEL IS HOLIDAY INN PRESIDENTIAL NEAR THE CLINTON LIBRARY

We have a group discount rate of $99.99 dollars for the nights of May 26-27, 2015 at the Holiday Inn Presidential near the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.

Please call the Holiday Inn Presidential at 501-375-2100 and say you are with the Delta Caucus to get the lower group rate of $99.99–a very good rate for a high-quality hotel located near the Clinton Library and the River Market district, which has many fine restaurants and other attractions.

The deadline for getting the group rate is May 12.

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Opening Up Farm Trade to Cuba Will Aid Delta's Economic Growth

Posted on December 18, 2014 at 03:38 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus supports opening up trade with Cuba to expand exports from the Delta to that country. Many of our partners have been directly involved in this issue for many years due to its important implications for economic development in the Delta region.

Before the embargo, farmers in Arkansas and some other Delta states used to export a large volume of products to Cuba; in particular, Arkansas rice farmers sold much of their crop to the island. We look forward to resuming that trade soon for the economic development of our region and the rest of the country.

Caucus Director Lee Powell traveled to Cuba in 1988 on a fact-finding trip for then Congressman Bill Alexander to discuss opening up trade with Cuba with high-level Cuban government officials, including Ricardo Alarcon, one of Fidel Castro’s most powerful aides.

Powell said “Many of our partners have been to Cuba and worked with officials from both countries since the 1980s until today to open up farm trade to Cuba. The embargo has done absolutely nothing to change Cuba’s authoritarian regime, and when a policy has not worked for 50 years it’s just common sense that it’s time for a change.”

Powell said “the embargo actually helped the Castro brothers and the authoritarian regime, because in their propaganda they could blame their economic failures on the embargo rather than the true cause, which was the disastrous communist agenda.”

Powell pointed out that President Raul Castro once again trotted out the old propaganda line that the embargo is a major cause of Cuba’s poverty, “when we all know that their economy was destroyed by communism. Take away the embargo and you take away that worn-out propaganda line, especially for the Cuban people themselves.”

The Delta Caucus would like to express our gratitude for Congressman Bill Alexander, who was the champion of opening up trade to Cuba over a quarter of a century ago and was severely attacked for doing so at that time. But this is an idea whose time has finally arrived and in retrospect Bill Alexander was right.

The Delta Caucus especially applauds the wise comments of Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), a long-time supporter of lifting the embargo who said “We’ve been kind of running the same play for decade after decade, and it hasn’t worked. I believe when you trade with people, trade goods and services, you also trade ideas, and that’s how you change the world.”

President Obama announced a series of policy changes at normalizing relations with Cuba, including easing trade, travel and financial restrictions. Pope Francis encouraged secret talks over the past 18 months and hosted a final meeting at the Vatican.

A full lifting of the embargo will require Congressional action.

Many Delta Caucus partners have traveled to Cuba and advocated for this change for three decades, including Harvey Joe Sanner, president of the American Agriculture Movement, Des Arc, Delta Caucus senior adviser Kevin Smith of Helena-West Helena, Caucus Director Lee Powell and others.

Kevin Smith, Delta Caucus senior advocate from Helena-West Helena visited Cuba in early December–literally a week ago, “Having just returned from Cuba, I learned that we can either fill the gap in trade ourselves, or the Chinese, Vietnamese and Russians and others will continue to do so even more. This will help our economy in the Delta.”

Smith said “In Cuba I saw evidence of relaxations on private ownership, some new real estate businesses being started, some allowance for religious expression, and with this leverage from ending the counterproductive isolation policy, we should expect even more progress.”

“This policy is long overdue, and expanding agriculture exports is vital for the Delta’s economy,” said Harvey Joe Sanner, president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas and a senior Delta Caucus adviser, who met with Fidel Castro in a trade mission to Cuba in 1987 arranged by then First District Congressman Bill Alexander.

Of course, the Delta Caucus and all Americans condemn the Cuban authoritarian policies, but the embargo/isolation policy has been tried for 50 years now, and it’s time for the change that President Obama’s administration as well as countless other practical economic development advocates have held for many years. “Once capitalism starts infiltrating Cuba, this will undermine the communist regime,” Powell said.

“We have been working on this issue for 30 years and are glad to see this historic breakthrough,” Powell said. “We encourage practical advocates for economic development from both parties in Congress to step up and pass legislation to end the embargo in 2015.”

Exports to Cuba from the Delta region actually did increase after Congress passed legislation in 2000 to allow food and medicine exports to Cuba. For example, Arkansas exports to Cuba in 2004 reached about $34 million. But then the administration of President George W. Bush placed restrictions requiring Cuban purchasers of American goods to pay cash and go through third party banks, and Arkansas exports crashed to $2.7 million in 2005 and by 2012 and 2013 they were exactly zero.

The White House announced on Dec. 17 that it would end the Bush-era financing restrictions and return to the system that allowed American agricultural goods to be sold to Cuba. Completely lifting the embargo requires Congressional action.

Arkansas is the largest producer of rice in the United States, producing 50% of our country’s crop. Rice grown in Arkansas, other Delta states and across the country is very high quality.

Powell said “When I was in Cuba, the rice I had was frankly of very poor quality and I could only stand to eat it because I was on a diplomatic mission and wanted to be polite to our Cuban hosts, who were quite cordial. They would love to move up to high-quality rice from the Delta.”

Cuba currently imports most of its rice from Vietnam and other Asian countries, with some additional imports from Brazil.

Lower transportation costs as well as higher quality will give American producers an advantage. It takes six to eight weeks to import Rice from Vietnam, whereas American companies can move the goods in a few days in smaller ships that can stop at a large number of ports.

The island nation has a population of about 13 million people. Cubans consume about $225 to $275 million worth of rice each year, according to information in an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (“In State, Growers See Trade Potential,” by Sarah D. Wire and Glen Chase, Dec. 18, 2014, page 1A).

Cuba is also a significant market for poultry and other products that are produced in abundance in the Greater Delta Region.

In addition to the Delta Grassroots Caucus, other organizations and leaders supporting trade to Cuba include (among many others):

-US Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)

–Gov. Mike Beebe (D-AR)

–Arkansas Farm Bureau

–American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas

–Tyson Foods, Inc.

–Arkansas Rice Federation and USA Rice Federation

–Riceland Foods, Inc.

–The Arkansas legislature has passed resolutions endorsing farm trade to Cuba

–The Agricultural Council of Arkansas

Delta Year-End Annual Dues Membership Drive--2 Weeks Left--Dec. 31, 2014

Posted on December 16, 2014 at 11:58 AM

We have two weeks remaining in our year-end membership drive for the year 2014, and would like to thank the many people who have contributed over the past several weeks. With a pool of donors stretching over eight states and the Washington, DC area, large numbers of modest contributions add up to a substantial amount.

We would request annual membership dues in the amounts of $25, $50 or $100, depending on the size of your organizations and of course your individual preferences.

We are deeply appreciative of the many donors who contributed in recent days and weeks. Our partners of course tend to be very generous during the Christmas and New Year’s season.

This is now a requirement for our members who wish to be fully supportive and active in the Delta Grassroots Caucus advocacy for the eight-state region’s community and economic development, and the only request is just $25 once each calendar year, although some have contributed larger amounts up to $100 or $200 or more.

We have until Dec. 31, 2014 to complete this drive. Our budget is based entirely on voluntary donations in the form of sponsorships, registration fees at major conferences and annual membership dues.

For medium-sized nonprofits, businesses, chambers of commerce, smaller banks, we would suggest $50 in dues, if possible.

For larger universities, colleges, foundations, corporations, other larger organizations, or those who want to contribute at a higher level, we would suggest $100.

For your convenience, if would like to send in annual membership dues, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

We are steadily increasing the number of annual membership dues we collect each year. We used to have a significant problem in that most people did not pay the dues, but we have been increasing our collections each year. We are sure this is just a result of some partners not focusing on the dues, perhaps thinking they are not important, or perhaps not knowing about the requirement of just $25 a year. If everybody contributes something it will be a significant plus.

Our fundraising strategy is similar in some ways to public television and radio stations, and they occasionally engage in membership drives and point out that they could not exist without these voluntary donations. The Delta Caucus is of course different from public broadcasting in many other respects, but as far as our fundraising we are quite similar.

Members receive regional email newsletters on regional issues, are invited to the two major conferences-one in the spring at the Clinton Library and another in the fall at revolving locations, and have the knowledge that they are giving to the broadest grassroots, private sector, basically volunteer regional advocacy organization in the Greater Delta. Many other organizations play vital roles in advocacy and in many other ways, and we praise the activities of the many meritorious institutions and individuals in the region making contributions to regional development in countless different ways.

Our advocacy work for community and economic development focuses on the region from southern Illinois and Missouri through western Kentucky and Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and down to New Orleans and then east to the Alabama Black Belt-a vast area of more than 10 million people.

We also have a network of partners based in the Washington, DC area, as well as some Southern organizations that include Georgia and other areas of the South but have most of their base in the Greater Delta Region.

Key issues for the remainder of 2014 and 2015 will include:

–job creation/economic recovery,

–education and workforce development,

–women and children’s issues and support for the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings initiative for full participation of women and girls,

–renewable energy,

–hunger and nutrition,

–health care for underserved areas including support for Arkansas’ innovative private option health care plan,

–transportation, housing, broadband expansion and other infrastructure,

–the USDA rural development, agriculture and nutrition programs,

–Delta heritage tourism (including the pending bill to allow the historic steamboat the Delta Queen to resume her travels on the Mississippi), and other vital regional issues.

We also want to have a candid dialogue about the state of race relations in our region and across the country in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Missouri crisis and similar incidents across the country. We will invite a thoughtful dialogue acknowledging the need for putting a spotlight on the very real issues of racial profiling, police misconduct and excessive use of violence in some cases, but tempered with the knowledge that many police officers are reasonable people who conduct themselves in a reasonable, professional manner. We know that Martin Luther King, Jr. stressed the imperative that all protests and demonstrations must be non-violent.

We welcome input from many different points of view, including the broader community and economic impact of diversity and improved race relations across the region.

Large potential pool of small contributors over the eight states: We have over 700 people in our data base who have had extensive involvement with the Delta Caucus at some point, and over 3,000 who have had some involvement. It would be a huge plus for our budget if everybody would contribute at least $25.

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This Christmas Season of 2014 Give to the Delta Cultural Center--A Great Cause

Posted on December 09, 2014 at 02:22 PM

This Christmas season we would like to ask our partners to make donations to good causes across the eight-state Delta region. As a recommendation for one exemplary cause in our region, a suggestion is to make a donation to the Delta Cultural Center that serves 27 east Arkansas counties through the social giving platform of www.Sharemeister.com.

The Delta Cultural Center’s headquarters is in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas and it serves 27 counties from Clay on the Missouri border to Chicot County on the Louisiana border.

Contributions to the Delta Cultural Center are tax-deductible.

The concept of the Sharemeister website is to attract large numbers of small to medium-sized contributions on the website at www.Sharemeister.com by innovative, entertaining ways of promoting charitable giving. The Delta Grassroots Caucus makes suggestions on a rotating basis of great causes in the Delta region to contribute to, and if large numbers of people could go on to the secure website and make even a small contribution, this will add up to a substantial amount.

If this message reminds you to give either to the Delta Cultural Center or another good cause of your choice in the Greater Delta Region, please do so during this Christmas season when people across America are always so generous. Large numbers of contributions of even $10 to $25-or more if you can-will help this worthy cause.

The Delta Cultural Center’s mission is to preserve, interpret and present the cultural heritage of this legendary 27-county region. From its blues music to the mighty river that runs through it, the Delta story unfolds through the work of the Center. Among its landmarks is the Delta Cultural Center museum in historic downtown Helena dedicated to the history of the Arkansas Delta (for more information see the website at www.deltaculturalcenter.com)

The museum interprets the history of the Delta through exhibits, educational programs, annual events and guided tours.

The Delta Cultural Center is comprised of two museum locations-the Depot and the Visitors Center. The Depot features the exhibit “A Heritage of Determination” which details the history of the Delta from its earliest inhabitants, into early settlement, through great Mississippi River floods. On the upper floor of the Depot, “Civil War in the Delta” gives visitors insight into Union occupation and the Battle of Helena.

The Visitors Center, located one block north of the Depot, features “Delta Sounds” music exhibit, a live radio studio, changing exhibit space and the Museum Store. The Delta Cultural Center is a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Helena-West Helena is the location every fall for the famous King Biscuit Blues Festival, which attracts tens upon tens of thousands of people to hear renowned musicians perform in the heartland of the Delta blues.

On a rotating basis every several months the Delta Caucus selects a good cause to encourage charitable donations to, and this fall we chose the Delta Cultural Center, which is based in Helena-West Helena but does many constructive activities all across eastern Arkansas. We encourage our partners to go on the website of Sharemeister, a new firm that finds innovative, entertaining ways to generate donations to good causes at www.Sharemeister.com and make a donation on their social giving platform.

The Delta Cultural Center Challenge will continue on through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. On the Sharemeister website, this challenge is divided into the West Delta Team, which includes such institutions as Arkansas State University, Grambling, the LSU Tigers, Arkansas Razorbacks, Missouri Tigers, UAPB, UA-Monticello, Mid-South Community College, Phillips Community College of he University of Arkansas and other great institutions.

Lee Powell, Caucus director, challenged the West Delta Team to beat the East Delta team in making contributions to the Delta Cultural Center on the website, emphasizing that in comparison to the great institutions just cited in the West, all the East can muster are Ole Miss, Mississippi State, University of Memphis, Murray State University in Kentucky, Southern Illinois University, the Alabama Crimson Tide and other schools that very few people have ever heard of (smile). Powell predicts a landslide victory in this competition for the West Delta Team.

If you would like to participate in the Delta Cultural Center Challenge, go to the website at www.Sharemeister.com, then go to the Delta Cultural Center Challenge page and contribute for either the West Delta Team or the East Delta Team.

The Delta Cultural Center was one of the key hosts-along with the Helena-West Helena Advertising & Promotion Commission, Mayor Arnell Willis, Phillips County Judge Don Gentry, and many other Phillips County leaders for the Oct. 30-31 Delta Grassroots Caucus regional conference held in Helena-West Helena at the beautiful, historic former synagogue, Beth El Heritage Hall, which is administered by the Delta Cultural Center.

Sharemeister is a national company, but its CEO, Marlon Henderson, is from Jonesboro, Arkansas so they naturally have a strong interest in the Delta region.