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.

AR Hunger Relief Alliance Message Supporting the Summer Meals Act & WIC

Posted on September 15, 2014 at 04:42 PM

The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance is a great organization that engages in a wide variety of constructive activities regarding hunger and nutrition. We are forwarding a message from them urging support for the Summer Meals Act, which has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Please contact your Members of Congress in support of this bill, as well as WIC (Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, SNAP (formerly food stamps), and other vital nutrition programs.

Rachel Townsend of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance gave a great presentation at our June 12-13, 2014 Delta Caucus conference at the Clinton Library and we have frequently collaborated with them over the years.

The hunger and nutrition issues will be very important as always for our Delta Caucus fall conference on Oct. 30-31, 2014 at Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, because of the high food insecurity, obesity, diabetes, heart-related maladies and other nutrition-related health issues.


1. Registration for Oct. 30-31, 2014 Delta Caucus fall conference in Helena-West Helena AR

2. Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance on the Summer Meals Act

3. Information on the WIC program

For more information on the schedule, speakers, group hotel of the Oct. 30-31, 2014 Delta conference in Helena-West Helena, please see the “Caucus Articles” link and scroll to the articles about the Helena Delta Caucus conference.


You register by mailing in the registration fee checks by the Oct. 15 early registration fee deadline.

Registration fees are $75 for those who have paid their annual membership dues or those who are part of a group of five or more who receive a group discount.

Registration fees are $100 for individuals who have not paid their annual membership dues.

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

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601


The Summer Meals Act of 2014

The Summer Meals Act of 2014, S. 2527 H.R. 5012, introduced by a bipartisan group in Congress, would strengthen, protect and expand access to the Summer Nutrition Programs that help reduce childhood hunger and combat childhood obesity experienced by low-income children in the summer months. The bill will support educational and enrichment programs that keep children learning, engaged, and safe when school is not in session.

In July, 2013, nearly three million had summer lunches on an average today, reaching only one in seven of the low-income children who rely on school lunch during the school year.

What are the Summer Nutrition Programs?

The Summer Nutrition Programs (the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program) provide federal funding to serve nutritious meals and snacks during summer break when low-income children lose access to free and reduced-price school meals.

The meals are served at sites such as summer programs, summer school, parks and recreation centers, Ys, and Boys and Girls Clubs that are located in a low- income area or that serve primarily low-income children. The vast majority of sites offer learning, enrichment, and/or recreational activities in addition to nutritious meals.

What does the bill propose?

Improve the area eligibility test to allow communities to participate if 40 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Currently, a summer meal site qualifies if 50 percent or more of children in the area qualify for free or reduced-price school meals as defined by school or census data. This threshold keeps many communities with significant numbers of low-income children, but not a high enough concentration of poverty, from participating.

In addition, the 50 percent test is inconsistent with federally funded summer programs, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center programs and Title I, which require at least 40 percent. These important education programs should all be able to provide summer meals.

Allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year-round through the Sum- mer Food Service Program. Currently, sponsors must apply to and operate both the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) in order to feed children—often the same children—after school and during the summer. This creates duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules that discourage participation.

Provide funding for transportation grants to fund innovative approaches and mobile meal trucks. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to participation, and these grants will increase low-income children’s access to summer meals in rural and other under-served areas.

Allow all sites to serve a third meal. Many summer meal sites provide child care to working parents and run all day, but most sites are only able to serve a maximum of two meals. This leaves children without enough nutrition to get through the day or forces sites to use program dollars for food.

How Will the Summer Meals Act Benefit My Community?

Combat childhood hunger and obesity. The Summer Nutrition Programs replace the breakfasts, lunches, after school meals, and snacks that children receive during the school day, giving low-income children access to the healthy meals their bodies need.

Keep children safe, learning, and out of trouble. The meals help draw children into educational, enrichment, and recreational activities which are important tools for combating summer learning loss, reducing juvenile crime and teen pregnancy, and supporting working parents.

Provide states federal child nutrition funding that will create jobs and generate economic activity. The Summer Nutrition Programs bring federal dollars into local communities that must be used to support providing meals, such as to purchase food, pay salaries and cover transportation costs.

About WIC by Monica Davidson—from the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

Date: 04.09.2014 | By: Nancy Conley | Blog

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a federal program, funded by a grant given to WIC State Agencies. This allows for only a certain amount of funding each year, as opposed to SNAP benefits where Congress sets aside enough funds for all eligible individuals to participate (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials).

WIC is based upon research showing that pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as infants and young children benefit from better and more consistent nutrition.

“WIC is a lifesaver when it comes to helping you get healthy things for your children in the first few years of life, and the fact that WIC will also help pregnant women [is great]. It was a great thing to have when Jasmine was little,” said former WIC mom, Kali.

WIC has led to lower health care costs by decreasing the number of preterm births and low birth-weight infants, which results in fewer illnesses and health issues.

Good prenatal and early childhood nutrition has been shown to increase vocabulary scores and significantly improve memory (USDA).

By investing in these children’s early nutrition, we are investing in our nation’s future. Because of the importance of early nutrition, the income threshold for WIC benefits is higher than that for SNAP (a maximum of 185% of the federal poverty income guideline, versus 100% for SNAP), making more women with slightly higher incomes eligible for WIC benefits.

WIC provides parents with children under the age of 5 access to items necessary for a well-rounded, balanced diet, for at least part of the month. In contrast to the generality of SNAP benefits, WIC allows families to purchase only specific foods, such as peanut butter, milk, and whole grain bread. Like many assistance programs, however, stretching the supply to last the entire month is largely impossible, but the benefits can help ease a financial situation that could otherwise prove terribly difficult.

Cooking Matters and Cooking Matters at the Store (WIC parents version available) helps parents better understand what they can get with their WIC benefits, as well as how to make the items they get last longer and provide healthier meal choices. Both events provide parents with the knowledge to be shopping savvy and the opportunity to learn new recipes, either by practicing them in class (Cooking Matters) or by providing copies of relevant recipes (Cooking Matters at the Store).

WIC parents can learn about ways to prepare vegetables, fruits, and beans (those dried beans can be a little intimidating to the uninitiated), and Cooking Matters at the Store gives parents the opportunity to learn not only how to shop smarter, but gives them a chance to practice these skills with a professional on hand to ask questions.

WIC offices also provide a support network to encourage mothers to breastfeed, which is recognized as the “optimal source of nutrition for infants.” (USDA) WIC offices provide enhanced nutritional packages to mothers who breastfeed, as well as one-to-one peer support and breast pumps or other aids needed to facilitate breastfeeding. Data has shown that breastfeeding participation by WIC recipients has increased .08% between 2011 and 2012 (USDA).

Mothers who choose to formula feed or are unable to breastfeed are provided with formula through WIC in place of the enhanced benefits available to breastfeeding mothers. This is beneficial to families in that formula feeding can prove costly— averaging $70 a month for the average 6 month old (Bonyata).

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Please RSVP & Register ASAP for Oct. 30-31 Delta Conference in Helena

Posted on September 05, 2014 at 04:21 PM

Please register as soon as possible for the Delta Grassroots conference in Helena-West Helena, AR on Oct. 30-31. Now that we are into September we are getting RSVPs at a rapid rate and the usual policy is to stop the reservations when we reach about 125 people.

We will have major political leaders from the region as well as distinguished grassroots leaders from all eight states. Key issues include job creation, the private option and other heath care issues, infrastructure, Delta heritage tourism, and women and children’s issues.

Elected officials and major candidates: We have confirmations from gubernatorial candidates Mike Ross and Asa Hutchinson, First District candidate Mayor Jackie McPherson of Heber Springs, have invited Congressman Rick Crawford, and we expect to have Sen. Mark Pryor speaking although we do not yet know whether it will be in person or by a live call-in. Sen. John Boozman is invited. Rep. Tom Cotton is invited, as are the two major candidates for US Senate in Mississippi, former Congressman Travis Childers and US Sen. Thad Cochran. Helena is just across the Mississippi River from the great state of Mississippi, and we expect many people from Mississippi at this event.


OPENING SESSION–Thursday, Oct. 30 from about 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

FRIDAY, OCT.31 from 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.


  1. Registration

  2. Key Issues and Speakers

  3. Group hotels in Helena-West Helena

  4. List of confirmed grassroots speakers from the eight-state region


You register by sending in the early registration fees. If the space fills up we will need to do this by first-come, first served basis.

We do not use registration forms to eliminate unnecessary paperwork.

Registration fees are an essential part of our budget so we have to ask for fees from everybody except Members of Congress, governors, etc.

We offer group discounts for local areas that can bring five or more people down to $75, as an incentive to bring new parters into the coalition. Also, for people who have paid their annual membership dues (minimum of only $25 once a year) the registration is only $75.

Registration fees for those who have not paid their annual dues is $100, unless yo are part of a local group working on recruiting new partners and then you get the group rate down to $75.

If you can be there, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

The early registration fees end on Oct. 1, 2014, and after that late registration fees go up to $150 each to provide an incentive to get the fees in on time.

We can consider going beyond 125 people if there is greater demand from knowledgeable, influential and dedicated leaders for the regional movement. However, we emphasize quality over quantity and want to make sure that each person there is a nonprofit executive, small business leader, corporation or foundation executive, county judge, mayor or other local elected official, state legislator, university or college official, or expert in key regional issues like transportation, health care, hunger and nutrition, Delta heritage tourism, broadband expansion, housing, and USDA programs.


You can RSVP to Lee Powell, Caucus director, at or 202-360-6347, and then send in the registration fees ASAP.

See the website at for more information.

Much of the reason for convening the fall conference in Helena-West Helena is its central location in the heart of the east Arkansas Delta, as well as being just across the river from Mississippi. We expect a strong turnout from east Arkansas leaders.


Key issues will include job creation/retention, education, transportation, broadband expansion and other infrastructure improvements, USDA programs, the private option health care plan, and nutrition.

We cover a broad range of issues, but we do want to give some special attention to women and children’s issues this year. Our attention to women and children’s issues is due to the alarmingly high poverty rates of women and children in our region. We want to include women in the economic contribution they make in the region, including women involved in farming, small business, etc.

In general, due to the alarmingly high poverty rates for those two sections of the population in our region, and we are also collaborating with the Clinton Foundation on Hillary Clinton’s No Ceilings initiative for full economic and political participation of women and girls.

We know that there are plenty of men who are hurting in our region, too, but the statistics are even worse for women and children, especially single mothers heading households and children.

The location is the beautiful, historic former synagogue in Helena-West Helena now called Beth El Heritage Hall.


We encourage people to stay in hotels in Helena-West Helena and go to the fine restaurants there. The community leaders of Helena-West Helena are being tremendously helpful in many ways for this conference and we want to help them as much as possible.

The two best hotels in Helena-West Helena are conveniently located a short drive from the meeting location and they are the following:

Best Western Inn: Please call the hotel at (870) 572-2592 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group to get the lower group discount rate ranging from $78 to $85 depending on the size room you request for the nights of Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. Many people just stay the one night of Oct. 30.

The lower group rate ends on Thursday, Oct. 9, so please make your reservation by Oct. 9.

THE EDWARDIAN INN: This is an elegant bed and breakfast in Helena-West Helena, set in a stately home built by a wealthy Helena cotton trader in 1904. Please call the Edwardian Inn at (870) 338-9155 and say you are with the Delta Caucus to get the lower rate of $83 for Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. Many people will just stay the one night of Oct. 30. We have a bloc of 10 rooms.

You will need to reserve your rooms at the Edwardian Inn by Oct. 15. After that they will probably not be available at all, and if so it would not be for the lower group rate.

If the two Helena-West Helena hotels fill up, we have some reserved rooms just across the Mississippi River in nearby Lula, Mississippi at the Isle of Capri Casino complex.

The Coral Reef Side of the Isle of Capri Casino, Lula, Mississippi–if the two Helena-West Helena hotels fill up: we have a bloc of double non smoking rooms.

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Washington, DC Martin Luther King Memorial Racial Healing Event, Aug. 30, 2014

Posted on August 29, 2014 at 02:19 PM


August 28, 2014 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Rev. Arthur L. Hunt, Jr., D.D., The College of Aspiring Artists (870) 623-8179; website is OR Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347; website is

“Delta to DC Diversity Tour to Hold Event Featuring Pleas for Racial Healing in Ferguson, Missouri and across the Country at Martin Luther King Memorial on Labor Day Weekend, August 30, 2014”

Washington, DC: The annual Delta to DC Diversity Tour led by Rev. Arthur L. Hunt, Jr., and The College of Aspiring Artists will hold a “Supreme Day of Prayer” at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on Saturday, Aug. 30.


The event is an appeal for racial healing and renewed dedication to the ideals of compassion and nonviolence embodied in the civil rights movement and the War On Poverty. Event participants include many national organizations as well as regional organizations like the Delta Grassroots Caucus, and it will feature a special section highlighting an appeal for racial healing in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus will be among the participating organizations for The College of Aspiring Artists’ event, which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the War On Poverty and of historic civil rights movement accomplishments, and feature a special section praying for racial healing in Ferguson, Missouri.

A pre-gathering ceremony is from 10 a.m. to noon, and the event is from noon to 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 and a schedule is below in the addendum to this message.

This event will include many national and Delta regional organizations including

–the Memorial Foundation that oversaw the creation of the King Memorial from inception to completion,

–The College of Aspiring Artists, led by Rev. Arthur Hunt of Arkansas;

–the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus advocacy organization extending from the St. Louis, Missouri area down the Mississippi River to New Orleans and eastward to Selma, Alabama and the Alabama Black Belt;

–Supreme Day of Prayer Capitol Region Commissioners, Together in Ministries led by Dr. Corinthia Boone, and the National Day of Prayer Task Force led by Vice-Chairman, John Bornschein, which supervises the National Day of Prayer each year created by Congress in 1952.

Group from South Africa: The International Praise and Worship features Kunjalo, a group of ministers, singers and musicians from Cape Town, South Africa who will kick off a musical tour of the USA at this event. Kunjalo will be paying tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela throughout the trip. We are honored to have these talented musicians from so far away as South Africa.

The event is led by Rev. Hunt and others based in the Delta. Delta Grassroots Caucus Director Lee Powell and Caucus board member Martha Ellen Black from Missouri are among the speakers.

In addition to the group coming from the Delta, we will be joined by community leaders in the Washington, DC area and elsewhere, in addition to the South African group.

Attendance is expected to be 300 or more for the earlier sessions beginning in the late morning and at noon. The numbers will vary as some come and go over the course of the day, but total expected attendance is expected to be about 1,000 for those who come to at least parts of it.

Rev. Hunt will speak about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri in the prayer for racial healing in that community in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown. “This is a teachable moment for those who appeal for a renewed dedication to the principles of racial understanding, love and nonviolence championed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the greatest days of the civil rights movement.”

“Dr. King and the movement endured and ultimately rose above the deep controversies of the 1960s through nonviolent methods leading to the historic civil rights legislation. We pray for a rededication to those ideals of peace, racial understanding and nonviolence today for the people in Ferguson, Missouri and across America,” Rev. Hunt said.

Caucus Director Lee Powell will speak at the noon to 1 p.m. session on “Prayers for the President Salute to New My Brothers’ Keeper Initiative.’ Powell will speak about the Delta Caucus’ advocacy work in fighting poverty, promoting racial understanding, and a brighter future in the eight states of our region of over 10 million people.

Powell said, “The War On Poverty made substantial progress in reducing overall poverty rates, although we still have a long journey ahead of us in fighting poverty nationwide and sadly even moreso in the still economically distressed region. We know that we still suffer from racial tensions, but we still acknowledge the major gains since the days of Jim Crow when African Americans in the Delta could not vote, did not have access to a good education, and constantly suffered in the shadows of prejudice and segregation.”

“For a regional grassroots coalition extending from St. Louis to New Orleans along the Mississippi, we especially want to hear our colleagues from Missouri at this time of great duress in Ferguson, Missouri, and at the conference we will hear from our board member and Missouri Delta Caucus coordinator, Dr. Martha Ellen Black, executive director of the Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center in southeast Missouri,” Powell said.

Powell said, “Martha Ellen Black’s sister lived and was a teacher in Ferguson, Missouri for many years, and our Missouri partners are understandably distraught by the violence there.”

Martha Ellen Black will also speak at the noon hour segment as a Missourian who is deeply concerned by the plight of Ferguson, Missouri.

Black said, “We in Missouri are deeply disturbed by this very sad situation. In Missouri we had come so far in racial progress since the days of Martin Luther King, and we must not take backward steps toward those dark days. We won’t comment on the facts and will let the authorities resolve this, but we can make this plea: it should be resolved nonviolently by people of all races, faiths, and philosophies.”

Rev. Hunt and the Delta Caucus leaders want to be sure and emphasize that this event welcomes Muslims, Jews, Christians and people of all faiths and persuasions, as well as people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Rev. Hunt and The College of Aspiring Artists are bringing a group of people from the heart of the Delta in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi to Washington, DC for this day of education, racial understanding, and rededication to the ideals of Dr. King and the civil rights movement.

The College of Aspiring Artists (TCAA) is one of the nations’ premiere organizations that has produced legacy tributes for the past 25 years to Dr. King with and for partners including but not limited to the National Civil Rights Museum, Clinton Presidential Center, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. Among TCAA’s many activities are mentoring and enhancing educational and career opportunities for young people in the Greater Delta Region.

Last year, the theme was “The Delta to DC Diversity Tour” which captured the mission and vision to move persons in the Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana Delta region who are normally at the bottom of progressive rankings in education and income to take the lead in connecting and continuing the work demonstrated and left in our hand by Rev. Dr. King and the pioneers in his day.

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Annual Delta to DC Tour Is Aug. 30, 2014: Ferguson, Missouri, & Other Civil Rights Issues

Posted on August 22, 2014 at 01:41 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus praises the annual Delta to Washington, DC event led by Rev. Arthur Hunt and The College of Aspiring Artists and many other regional and national leaders, to be held Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC.

At the top of the prayer agenda will be concerns and prayers for racial healing in Ferguson, Missouri. The event also includes support and prayers for the Delta Grassroots Caucus, which is an enthusiastic supporter of these activities.

The tour celebrates the first year of the “next 50 years” after the historic March on Washington, as well as commemorating the 50th anniversary of the War On Poverty.

The leaders involved are committed to supporting and continuing the work of Dr. King and the civil rights movement today and into the future.

All faiths, persuasions, racial and ethnic groups are welcome at this event.

The tour originates in the Delta and includes participants from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere in the region.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus and The College of Aspiring Artists have collaborated on a number of constructive activities in recent years, and Rev. Arthur Hunt and his colleagues were strong supporters of our recent conference in June, 2014 at the Clinton Presidential Library.

We would encourage especially all of our partners in the Washington, DC area to come out to this event. An itinerary is below so that you can choose which parts of this great event you are most interested in. All of the segments are excellent and we hope you can be there for as much of them as possible.

During the 12noon-1pm segment, “Prayers for the President Salute to New MBK Initiative,’ Lee Powell, Grassroots Caucus Executive Director, will speak briefly about our organization’s work for a brighter future in the eight states of our region of over 10 million people.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus would like to express our deep appreciation to The College of Aspiring Artists and other leaders of this event for including our organizations in their prayers.

There will be a segment on racial healing for the community of Ferguson, Missouri. The Delta Caucus’ mission area extends to the St. Louis, Missouri area.

During the noon to 1 p.m. segment, The College of Aspiring Artists Will Be Offering Prayers of Support for MBK-My Brother’s Keeper White House Initiative and for other Mentoring and After-school Programs aimed to guide the now and next generation of leaders.

Lee Powell, Delta Grassroots Caucus Executive Director, will speak briefly about the Delta Grassroots Caucus’ mission for community and economic progress in the region.

For those in our eight-state region who may be in the Washington, DC area that weekend, we encourage you to come out to this uplifting and great event.

Below is a news release from The College of Aspiring Artists and their colleagues describing the event, followed by a schedule for the Saturday, Aug. 30 session. We want to praise this event in every way we can.

Delta Grassroots Caucus.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Rev. Arthur L. Hunt, Jr., D.D. | 870.623.8179 |

“MLK Memorial: 2014 Back to School-Back to God Supreme Day of Prayer, Purpose and Promise” Labor Day Weekend-Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 18, 2014 (Little Rock, AR) - As millions of American head back to school, The College of Aspiring Artists, (TCAA) have received their Permit from the Unites States Department of the Interior for Year III of the Annual Supreme Day of Prayer at the MLK Memorial and are planning a special day of prayer with and for spiritual leaders for concerns and advancements across the nation.

Concern for racial healing in Ferguson, Missouri is at the top of the prayer agenda.

This year, timed to coincide with Back to School and Labor Day Weekend, a special emphasis and time will be dedicated to educators and students of all ages who are returning to school. As the nation celebrates the ‘first year’ of the next 50 years beyond the March on Washington, on Saturday August 30, 2014, a set time has been ordained to return to this Spiritual Landmark. The event is scheduled from 10am-7pm.

The theme, “Back to School-Back to God: Supreme Day of Purpose and Promise,” challenges students of all ages to see the model of academia and spiritual disciplines exemplified by Rev. Dr. King and continue to put them forward. A special hour will be dedicated as “Prayers for the President” and a special hour has been added for “Prayers for the People in Ferguson, Missouri.”

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Nucor Steel: A Great Delta Success Story; August, 2014

Posted on August 07, 2014 at 04:28 PM

The Nucor Yamato Steel, Nucor Steel Arkansas and Nucor Castrip plants in Mississippi County are a major success story on many fronts. In addition to being the most efficient steel mills in the United States, Nucor has demonstrated a broad commitment to promote the community and economic progress of northeast Arkansas and the Greater Delta Region as a whole through policies that promote safety and health, and support the education of its more than 1,600 Arkansas employees and their families.

We all know about the serious economic challenges we face in the Greater Delta Region, but we also need to recognize some of the innovative, constructive organizations that are doing great work in the region today and helping the region progress toward a brighter future. Nucor is definitely one of those constructive organizations.

This is one in a series of profiles of organizations in the Greater Delta who are engaging in best practices and serve as role models for the future progress of our region.


  1. Randy Henderson’s presentation on the Nucor success story at Clinton Library Delta conference, June, 2014

  2. Nucor accomplishments in environmental protection and climate change

  3. Nucor’s exemplary safety record

  4. Three notable examples of Nucor’s community outreach

a. Nucor aquaculture project for northeast Arkansas high school students

b. Nucor’s help for troops and veterans in Arkansas

c. Nucor’s aid for victims of the tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

1. Randy Henderson’s presentation on the Nucor success story at the Clinton Library Delta conference:

The Delta Grassroots Caucus deeply appreciates the support Nucor gives our grassroots coalition, and we would like to summarize the insightful remarks made at our June 12-13 Clinton Library conference by Randy Henderson, Inventory/Safety Coordinator for Nucor’s thin-strip casting plant in Blytheville in northeast Arkansas.

Nucor is the leading steel producer and recycler in the United States. Nucor’s three steel facilities in Arkansas employ over 1,600 people at an average salary in the range of $70,000 to $80,000.

Nucor’s generous support for education of their employees: At the Clinton Library conference, Mr. Henderson emphasized that at Nucor they believe that their people are the company’s greatest resource and the “core of success is through education.” Nucor offers each employee $3,200 a year for ongoing education, $3,200 for their spouse and each dependent is offered $3,200 a year for four years to help defray college tuition. The Delta Grassroots Caucus partners see this as a remarkably enlightened and generous policy and we agree that education is the key to progress in our region.

Nucor’s broader service to the community: Henderson said that the Nucor team provides resources to the community by serving on boards for constructive causes, helping the local area to grow through job creation and supporting education.

For example, five years ago Henderson and several other leaders in Blytheville went to Helena-West Helena to learn about the KIPP school that has enjoyed success there. They went with the mindset that they were going to work toward bringing a similar KIPP school to Blytheville–and in fact that is now a reality. Today, there is a successful KIPP program in Blytheville that is helping enhance educational opportunity for students in the community. Via a seat on the KIPP Delta Board of Directors, Nucor helps to steer this highly successful education program.

Practice of never laying off any employees: Nucor’s enlightened practice towards their employees is demonstrated by the fact that in their entire history, they have never laid off one employee at one of their steel mills as the result of a slowdown or lack of work. Even in the depths of the worst recession since the Great Depression in 2008-2009, Nucor made sure that all of their employees kept working. For Nucor, as well as for much of the economy as a whole, the financial situation has significantly improved today. The Nucor workforce benefits greatly from maintaining their jobs and medical benefits regardless of which way the economic winds are blowing.

Expansion of plants in Blytheville, Arkansas as well as at Louisiana plant: Nucor is a national company and generates economic development at numerous locations across the country. In 2011, Nucor invested 750 million to build a new direct reduced iron plant in Louisiana. The new facility, which produces a raw material used in steelmaking, created more than 600 construction jobs and 150 high-quality, high-paying permanent jobs.

Recently Nucor made a 115 million investment in their northeast Arkansas facility, creating approximately 200 construction jobs, plus 40 to 50 permanent jobs once construction is completed.

Job recruitment across the region: Nucor recruits employees broadly across the region. Mr. Henderson said at the Clinton Library conference that he works on recruiting interns in Delta communities such as Pine Bluff, and that just the week before the conference two interns had started to work on the beam mill side in Blytheville and four interns from Pine Bluff started on the sheet mill side. Many other Delta communities have people who have found employment with Nucor.

Great River Promise: Henderson stressed Nucor’s commitment to the Great River Promise, a program started by Arkansas Northeastern College that guarantees that every high school student will have the opportunity to go to college.

In partnership with Arkansas Northeastern College and other Mississippi County community leaders, Nucor is a key supporter of the Great River Promise. Students who attend four years at a Mississippi County public high school, graduate and gain acceptance at Arkansas Northeastern College, achieve 95% attendance and punctuality record, and have no drug or DWI offenses will gain a scholarship at the college. They are required to enroll for at least 12 credit hours per semester and the scholarship is for four semesters and three calendar years after their high school graduation. The program has been recognized as a major success and role model for other communities in the region.

Among the goals of the Great River Promise are increasing the number of high school graduates, the number of college graduates, creating a competitive workforce, keeping children in Mississippi County, and filling high-skilled, well-paying jobs.

Safety as the top priority: Although Nucor is obviously a great success story in efficiency and productivity, Henderson emphasized that the company’s number one priority is not producing steel, but rather assuring the safety and health of their employees. For example, each year Nucor holds a health fair in which the employees can bring their spouses for a total health check-up and evaluation.

Nucor partners with Lifesigns in Memphis, Tennessee, where they can go to get a thorough health evaluation. Lifesigns is a Memphis health care company that provides clinical examination services for corporate clients. Blytheville is located in northeast Arkansas and Memphis is a short drive away.

The Lifesigns clinic offers Nucor employees and other patients a prevention-centered medical home and a prevention partner for employer-based wellness. Lifesigns provides physician-directed testing and consultation to identify developing health risks. Follow-up care focuses on management of weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, pre-diabetes and other health issues. The Nucor partnership with Lifesigns is another indication of their forward thinking approach to promoting the long-term well-being of their people.

At the Blytheville plant, Nucor has doctors on site at all times, plus two paramedics and a host of emergency medical technicians and first responders to address any health issues.

Multiplier impact of job creation in the local area: In addition to a workforce of more than 1,600 people, Nucor’s presence results in a multiplier effect in the local area caused by several other companies who provide supplies or services to Nucor. Examples include Tenaris, a metal tubing fabricator; IPSCO, which runs high-speed pipe mills and other activities; JMS, company, which provides steel and processing services; Nucor affiliate Skyline Steel and other companies.

We know that as a major national corporation, Nucor has greater resources than many other companies, but on a smaller scale it would be very beneficial to the region if other companies could follow policies emphasizing workforce development, education, health, and a commitment to the broader community as Nucor has done. We are proud to have Nucor as one of our leading regional partners in working for community and economic progress in the Greater Delta Region.

We would like to provide further background information here about Nucor’s innovative and enlightened policies in productivity, research, environmental protection, safety and community outreach.

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