Delta Hands for Hope

To empower all children to have the education, leadership skills, and abilities to succeed.

A Student Response

Shantaria Thomas is a high school student completing her degree at Delta Hands for Hope through the Families First for Mississippi NLRO program. Because of her inspiring hard work and dedication, she is sharing her motive for completing her degree and her dreams for the future. 

What motivated you to get your high school degree?


As a young woman, I have always wanted to be beneficial to this world. I never really had the urge to be a scholar, but I’ve always wanted more for myself educationally. When you are used to just doing enough to get by, you fall complacent in many aspects of your life. I made the choice to broaden my horizons by enrolling into this program. I’ve been devoting time to finishing assignments to reading for basic knowledge. I want to accomplish this for my family, and most of all, my son and myself. He needs to see his mother striving for greatness so that he may strive just as well. I’ve always loved learning and have many talents. I’d like to go to college and try some of them out. Although I’m not sure of my field, I do know I will press on and get my high school diploma this year.

How have your friends and family helped you? 

My family has been supportive in my pursuit of a high school diploma. I’ve researched, read numerous articles and readings for class projects and assignments. My cousin has been an influential party in me working towards this milestone. She has answered every time I’ve called, assisted with assignments and been my biggest supporter. She is an educator as well. I am very thankful for the help she offers. She believes in me and for that I am grateful.

 What do you hope to gain from getting your high school degree? 


I hope to feel better about myself and regain the excitement and confidence to go to college. With whatever I decide to do, I know I will be great at it. I have learned perseverance, and the hope and joy of trying to fulfill my dreams. Life is a gamble. Good decisions are not! To those who are down, just believe in yourself. You can do whatever you want. You were already made from the beginning with everything needed to succeed. Just do it!

Outstanding Volunteer Leadership by a Youth group

Six of Delta Hands for Hope's youth leaders have been selected as the Outstanding Volunteer Leadership by a Youth Group by the 2018 Governor's Initiative for Volunteer Excellence (GIVE). This prestigious award honors organization's volunteer accomplishments.  

 The youth leadership group on a mission trip in South Carolina

The youth leadership group on a mission trip in South Carolina

The six youth who were selected are Brianna Townes, Makala Washington, Roderious Phillips, Jakieus Roach, Japhabian White, and Keyveon Rice. These are the original 6 youth leaders who are also high school seniors. They are responsible for the creation and growth of Delta Hands for Hope's leadership program, and have volunteered over 3,000 hours

They will be honored at a ceremony in Jackson on Monday, April 16, where they will have the opportunity to meet Mississippi's Governor and First Lady. 

You can read their nomination here.

Makala Washington selected as a CBF "2018 Youth to Know."


Makala Washington, a youth leader at Delta Hands for Hope and a senior at Shaw High School was selected by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a "2018 Youth to Know." This award is intended to recognize exceptional youth that are active members of CBF churches or partner organizations who are making a difference in their community.

This is what Lane Riley, the Executive Director of Delta Hands for Hope, wrote for her nomination:

Makala takes on many roles at Delta Hands for Hope. She participates in all of our high school programs, but also volunteers to lead middle school programs. She is a co-leader for our middle school Bible Study class, where she plans lessons and activities, helps the girls with their activities, and leads by example. When I am out of town and not able to lead class, she will lead it by herself. She is one of the best youth leaders I have, and is always finding ways to make Delta Hands for Hope a better organization. She helps clean and pick up out building, and will help younger youth with homework and school projects. During the summer, she is one of my most dependable youth to come and help. She is always looking for ways to serve, and will do whatever is needed with a great attitude. 

Makala is a someone that is going to excel in whatever she chooses to do in life. And right now, she is choosing to be a youth leader and volunteer with Delta Hands for Hope. 

She models leadership and a Christ-like attitude, and demonstrates how other youth should act. She always has a great attitude and is a friend and mentor to many. She is well-liked in school. She always completes her assignments and is respectful to her teachers and classmates. She is the perfect example of what I expect from my other youth leaders.

Youth Leaders Nominated for Award

Delta Hands for Hope has 6 students that are graduating high school this year. We have watched them grow, learn, and are so so proud of them! I wanted to share the nomination I made honoring their achievements and success over the past three years. 

I am nominating the six high school seniors that are involved in Delta Hands for Hope’s youth leadership program for the 2018 Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence. These youth are Roderious Phillips, Keyveon Rice, Jakieus Roach, Brianna Townes, Makala Washington, and Japhabian White.

The youth leadership program at Delta Hands for Hope began in the summer of 2015 during the second year of summer programming for Delta Hands for Hope, and about 25 children (K-5th grade) were expected to participate in our summer camp. On the first day of camp, over 50 children showed up, and the next day, we had almost twice that many. Delta Hands for Hope needed to find additional volunteers quickly. I asked several high school students, including the six students mentioned above, to help me, and they spent their summer volunteering every morning leading children’s activities. These students, most of whom had just finished their freshman year of high school, then decided they wanted to continue meeting throughout the school year and start a leadership program.

During the next three years, I have been honored to watch as these youth grew from freshman to seniors and desired to improve themselves and their community, which is why I would like to nominate them collectively for this award. As a team, they have worked tireless to benefit the town of Shaw, Mississippi and provide valued and necessary leadership for Delta Hands for Hope as well as for the community. Delta Hands for Hope could not have grown as a non-profit without their encouragement and support.  Through the leadership of these six youth, the leadership program has expanded to include more than 20 youth. In the leadership program, these students have developed their soft skills, explored career opportunities, participated in cultural awareness opportunities through trips, volunteered extensively, and provided necessary leadership for summer and afterschool programming for children in K-8th grade at Delta Hands for Hope.

The following is just a snapshot of their service to their community.

DHH youth leaders have spent the last two summers volunteering in other communities working with Delta Hands for Hope partner churches. In 2016, they spent a week in Dallas, Texas, and worked with a children’s reading camp, organized socks for Buckner International, passed out meals with City Square’s food truck, and organized clothes at a resale shop that supported local nonprofits in Dallas. In 2017, they traveled to Greenwood, South Carolina where they volunteered at a food bank, a homeless shelter, a children’s home, and Habitat for Humanity’s Resale Store.

This summer, the high school boys decided they wanted to improve their weight room to make it a better space for all student athletes in Shaw. DHH youth leaders planned a 3-day service project where they cleaned the weight room and repaired and painted the lockers.

They have worked the past three summers with Delta Hands for Hope’s children’s camp and have added additional responsibilities each year. They are now responsible for planning and leading children’s activities. They watch the children and encourage them to behave and participate. Each of the nominees has served in various capacities, but this past summer, they were each in charge of a different activity. Roderious and Japhabian were group leaders for recreation. Makala led the kindergarten and 1st grade rotation, and Keyveon led the 4th grade rotation. Jakieus and Brianna were co-leaders for enrichment activities.

They organize and participate in community-wide clean-up days, and are currently helping build a park, repair and paint the bleachers at the school. They always work hard and provide encouragement for others to work hard as well.  They have worked at several churches, painting, cleaning, and doing minor repairs. At our center, they have painted, organized, cleaned, moved bricks, scraped paint, did heavy lifting, and more. They have worked at their school in the school garden, painted classrooms, cleaned hallways, built benches at the baseball field, and painted bleachers.

One of the things I am most proud of is to see them teaching our younger youth leaders what it means to lead and serve. They patiently help our middle school and lower classmen high schoolers on service projects and are excellent role models.

Delta Hands for Hope youth leaders have invested over 3,000 volunteer hours in their community, and the seniors I am nominated have served almost half of these total hours.

I want to nominate these six youth because of the example they lead, not for only younger children, but for the adults in the community. They encourage and inspire the entire community. Because of this leadership program that they initiated, these youth have a brighter future, and they are motivating the younger generation to do the same. When I first met them, they wanted to volunteer because it occupied their time. Now, they are planning their own volunteer projects and are actively seeking additional opportunities to serve without prompting. They come out to serve on the hottest days of the summer and the coldest days of winter. They wake up early on weekends and school holidays, and stay late until projects are finished. Their dedication inspires me to do better and work harder to make sure that these youth have all of the opportunities that can be afforded to them.

These youth are very deserving of this award. My job is made easier because of them, and I would love to see them honored for their dedication and commitment. 

Experiences with the Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program, a program run by the USDA to provide meals for children in low-income communities, made Delta Hands for Hope’s first summer camp possible. You have probably heard radio commercials or seen social media posts about this national program but may not understand its importance for communities like Shaw, MS. During the summer of 2014, our first summer in operation, Delta Hands for Hope served 416 meals to children in the community, and at the time, this number seemed huge. However, over the next two summers, we served over 10,000 meals! By participating in the Summer Food Service Program, we are providing a much needed resource for children in the community and expanding our outreach opportunities through communion and fellowship.

Bolivar County, where Shaw is located, has a childhood food insecurity rate of 31.9%, which is extremely high. This means that about one in three children who walk through our doors don’t have consistent access to nutritious food at home. During the school year, children can eat a free breakfast and lunch at school, but during school holidays, parents may struggle to provide healthy foods for their children. Because Shaw is roughly twelve miles from the nearest grocery store, access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be tricky for parents who don’t have access to consistent transportation. For many parents in Shaw, their access to groceries is limited to the stock at convenience stores, where most foods are processed and packaged. Summer months tend to be the worse time for children in food-insecure homes.

This number was hard for me to process. Because one in three children are food insecure, the entire Delta region has one of the highest concentrations of childhood food insecurity in the country. Nationwide, the food insecurity average is approximately one in seven.  I know the research, the statistics, and what these implications mean. And I encourage you to research food insecurity as well. But it’s another thing completely to have a relationship with these kids, to see their faces, and to know which kids don’t have enough food to eat at home. By interacting with the kids in Shaw, these statistics become personal.

Through the Summer Food Service Program, Delta Hands for Hope can feed nutritious meals to children all summer long. We have the resources to serve breakfasts and lunches that are healthy, filling, and expose children to various fruits and vegetables that they might not have access to otherwise. Even during the school year, we keep healthy snack options at our center because we don’t know who will have access to healthy foods at home. Participating in the Summer Food Service Program has been a fun journey for Delta Hands for Hope. We have introduced our youth to new fruits and vegetables, and foods that they don’t eat at home. We have learned how to compost our leftovers and how to plant some of our own vegetables in a community garden at McEvans School. During camp, we employ a local pastor to prepare the food for us, and our high school youth leaders help the younger children carry their plates to the table. We have had two different sponsors that help make the Summer Food Service Program possible, and we have sponsored other local non-profit sites as well. But most importantly, we have served hundreds of children thousands of meals.

When you support Delta Hands for Hope, you are helping us by providing excellent school year and summer programming for the children and young adults in Shaw. But you are also giving us the resources we need to make sure that every kid who comes to the center has food to eat. Providing food for children and youth is part of Delta Hands for Hope’s identity. As long as our doors are open, we will make sure that children have access to healthy food, and we are thankful that you and the Summer Food Service Program help us do that. 

From a mission partner

Another Voice on Missions from The Tapestry, a publication from Wilshire Baptist Church

If you’ve ever heard me talk about my hope for missions at Wilshire, you know I continu- ally preach two things. My first hope is that missions becomes an integral part of our identity as Christ followers and not just something we do. My second hope is that missions is not just about what we can give but what we can receive.

I believe our participation in God’s mission is a mutually transforming experience, which cannot happen without engaging in life-changing relationships.

Two years ago Wilshire entered into a partnership with a CBF- affiliated ministry in Shaw, Miss., called Delta Hands for Hope. Over the course of our two-year partnership we have sent
four mission teams to Shaw. These teams have completed many tasks, but more importantly have formed many new relationships. We have sent church members who have participated in worship at a local church, planned summer camp activities and completed building improvements at both McEvans Elementary School and the Delta Hands for Hope building.

Lane Riley, program coordinator for DHH commented: “Because of Wilshire teams, I have witnessed progress not only as a result of walls being painted or shelves being built. I’ve witnessed the personal growth of my youth when they realize they can dream big- ger, or when we have honest conversations about cultural differences and poverty.”

Because both Delta Hands for Hope and Wilshire value the idea of reciprocity in mission, we had the opportunity of receiving Delta Hands for Hope’s first mission team of 12 youth to Dallas last month. These youth participate in a leadership program and were required to volunteer at least four weeks at a local summer camp in order to travel to Dallas. At the beginning of the summer, 12 youth were trained, and at the end of the summer 12 youth walked away with job experi- ence, improved leadership skills and experience giving back to others.

While in Dallas, they volunteered with several of our local mission partners includ- ing CitySquare and Buckner, while also help- ing us host our reading camp at the Veranda @ Midtown apartments. This was the first time any of their youth have volunteered in a different community. Many of you invited them into your homes and prepared meals; they slept on the couches in the Youth Center and participated in our youth group events.

Lane extends her deepest appreciation to Wilshire for granting them this opportunity. “Shaw is an impoverished town, and there is much we don’t have. The community has seen many groups come to help us, and we are very grateful for all the selfless sacrifices others have made on our behalf. But this trip to Dallas has been an eye-opening experience for these youth leaders. My youth now know that although we need additional help in Shaw, they also have much to give. This trip allowed 12 youth from Shaw to use their gifts and skills to help another community. Thank you to Wilshire Baptist Church for welcoming us and for giving us the opportunity to give back.”

We plan on taking a team to Delta Hands for Hope in the spring and would love for you to make plans to join us.

—Heather Mustain, Minister of Missions, Wilshire Baptist Church

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