June 9, 2008 Rotogram


We welcome former Rotarian Kirk Schulz, MSU vice president for Research and Economic Development. He will update us on the university’s varied research programs.


Fellow Rotarian John Rush, MSU vice president for Development and Alumni, will report on the university’s  private funding efforts and alumni affairs.


Invocation and Pledge: Jim Ormon

Attendance: There were 121 members present (33 exempt), and 77 (23 exempt, 8 honorary) absent.               

Guests and Visitors: Rotarian Bill Overstreet visited from West Point. Brian Portera and Tammy Tyndall were guests of George Sherman. Club guests were Peggy Branch with Habitat for Humanity, Victoria Follett, youth exchange host sister, and youth exchange students Maryna Melnik and Negrita Caicedo.

Veterans RecognizedNoting that the week’s meeting fell between Memorial Day and D-Day commemorations, President Ned asked all veterans to stand and be saluted by the Club.

Rotary Minute: Robert Clark, annual giving committee chair, encouraged Rotarians nearing eligibility for a Paul Harris Fellowship to take advantage of the Club’s matching funds. Two thousand dollars is budgeted annually to help local members top the $1,000 PH Fellowship mark by providing up to $250 to complement their annual giving. Clark named 12 members eligible for the funds. Six other Rotarians have qualified this year for fellowships based on their annual giving.

“It’s a rigorous application process,” he said with tongue in cheek. “Just call me about your interest.”


The outgoing board of directors will be joined by the incoming directors at our monthly meeting on Wednesday, June 11, at the Country Club. Since our meeting day had to be moved, our meeting place also was affected.


The Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity executive director brought the message that home ownership breaks

Freddie Rasberry,  director since 2003, is a retired Extension specialist and professor of Plant and Soil Sciences. He also serves as lay pastor of Osborn and Hamilton Presbyterian Churches.

Rasberry, recognizing Peggy Branch as “not just an office manager, but a mover and shaker” said, “I’m a good talker, but somebody’s got to do something and that’s Peggy.”

Since its founding in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat for Humanity International has built and rehabilitated more than 250,000 houses, sheltering more than 1,000,000 people in more than 3,000 communities worldwide.

The local Habitat effort was chartered in 1986. Since that time, the affiliate has provided needy families with 38 homes.

“It’s been long enough [nearly four decades] for sociologists to track children who have grown up in Habitat homes,” said Rasberry. “Children of homeowners are significantly more likely to stay in school and less likely to have children before age 18.”

To illustrate the impact of a family home on youngsters, Rasberry recounted the story of Michael who lives in the local Habitat house built in 2006.

“One afternoon, I was standing on the pad of the `07 house, next door to Michael’s house, when he arrived home from school,” recalled Rasberry. “I waved to him and jokingly asked if he had made all A’s in school that day.”

Michael answered, as a matter of fact, he had been making all A’s since moving into the new family home. Thinking that he was kidding, Rasberry asked his mother if his claim was true.

“She teared up and stated that, yes, it was true. Since they had moved into their own home, Michael had his own room and either she or one of the older girls would help him each night with reading and math and he excelled,” said Rasberry.

While preparing to challenge the Presbytery of St. Andrews to increase local missions, Rasberry compiled some startling statistics. Among the facts are:

  • Mississippi’s poverty rate is more than double that of the U.S. (25 percent vs. 12 percent).
  • Eighteen percent of Mississippi families and 28 percent of individuals live below the poverty rate.
  • Oktibbeha is the eighteenth most poverty-stricken county in the state.
  • Mississippi is second in uninsured children; first in infant mortality; first in low birth weight; and, first in preteen births.
  • Nearly one in four children drop out of school year. That’s more than 10,000 young Mississippians each year.
  • Seventy five percent of all prisoners are high school dropouts.
  • More than half of low income Mississippi families pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing.

“Our goal at Habitat is not just to put people in a house,” said Rasberry. “We seek to identify families that can help themselves and give them a chance.”

Depending on the money that the affiliate raises, Habitat builds one or two houses per year. The process for selecting partner families is rigorous. Out of 40 to 50 annual applicants, about five or six families are targeted for personal interviews and home visits.

Intake meetings are held at the Emerson Family School where applicants can get household and family management counseling even if they are not selected for a home.

The families that are selected for a new home have to agree to help build the house. They have to invest at least 200 hours of sweat equity and be able to pay a small, interest-free mortgage.

A $65,000, three-bedroom Habitat house only costs its occupants about $300 per month for up to 20 years. The homeowners make about $1,000 to $2,000 per month, about 50 percent of the community media income.

Lots are purchased within Starkville for $5,000 to $10,000 apiece.  The houses are built to full city specifications. John Breazeale, the paid building supervisor, oversees work and standards.

Volunteer labor is a distinctive of the Habitat program. Twenty to 25 days of  team activity (about 2,000 hours) are needed to build a home.

Building season normally starts in March. At that time, Collegiate Challenge teams and other groups begin arriving in Starkville to work. Teams stay at Boy Scout Camp Seminole and are served by local churches.

Fridays and Saturdays are scheduled work days for local volunteers to join in the work.

At present there are 3 covenant partners who contribute $25,000 or more to local activities. They are First Presbyterian Church, First Methodist Church and Phillips Financial.

Several Habitat Builder Partners give $10,000 or more annually. Habitat Humanitarians donate $1,000 or more annually.

Whirlpool Corporation donates a stove and refrigerator to every U.S. Habitat house. A local disabled person was able to get an accessible stove through this program.

Rotary has long supported Habitat and this year is no different. At the close of the presentation, President Ned presented Rasberry with the Club’s annual $1,000 contribution. Rotarians Allan Tucker and Michelle Amos also serve as Habitat board members.


Responding to an idea floated by the Habitat director, several Rotarians have tentatively committed to donate funds for a “Rotary Roof” for one of the next houses built in Starkville. If you are interested in participating in the effort, contact Rasberry at the addresses or numbers listed below.

Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity
Freddie Rasberry, Executive Director
P.O. Box 784
Starkville, MS 39759

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