Winston Plywood and Veneer team captains are: front row, plant manager Ken Carter; standing from left, Jordan Smith, Deric Stewart, Marcia Frazier, and Jessica Patty.
Winston Plywood and Veneer team captains are: front row, plant manager Ken Carter; standing from left, Jordan Smith, Deric Stewart, Marcia Frazier, and Jessica Patty.
By MIKE ROBERTSON

Kemper County Messenger



Christmas 2017 was made much brighter for many Winston County children due to the efforts of the Winston Plywood and Veneer team members through their “Christmas From the Heart” program.

The children, many of whom have been placed into foster care through Mississippi Child Protection Services, were recipients of gifts through the efforts of the Plywood team.

Team members gathered in the Winston Plywood conference room last week and presented the gifts to representatives of Child Protection Services. The gifts included all types of toys, including 12 bicycles, eight of which were to be given to eight siblings who have been placed into foster care.

“Winston County went through a lot over the last several years,” plant manager Ken Carter said.

“This has been a plywood and wood products epicenter for years. When the plant shut down the first time it was detrimental to the people of Winston County.”

He said many of his current employees have been in the shoes of those they were trying to help through “Christmas From the Heart.”

Winston County was devastated on April 28, 2014, by an EF-4 tornado reported to be three-fourths of a mile wide.

The path of the storm was mainly through residential areas destroying hundreds of Winston County residences and taking the lives of 10 people.

The plywood plant, which had been operated by Georgia-Pacific for many years, was also damaged.

Efforts to reopen the plant had begun a short time before the storm, with the promise of providing several hundred much-needed jobs to people in Winston and adjoining counties.

After the tornado, local officials and others began the long process of reopening the mill. Through their tireless efforts, Winston Plywood and Veneer recently began operations employing, on average, 350 people from Winston and surrounding counties, including Neshoba.

Carter said “Christmas From the Heart,” which will be an annual event, was a team effort, as many of the members had asked him what they could do to give back to a community that had given them so much.

“Christmas is a time of giving and we are a hospitable group of people,” Carter said. “We’ve got a really good team here at Winston Plywood and we just want to give back to the community.”

Joann Clark, Area Social Work Supervisor with Child Protection Services, was moved to the point of tears by their actions.

“It is such a blessing,” Clark said. “The kids actually get hope. They get something to look forward to.”

Winston Plywood CFO Patty Burkland said they just really value the community.

“We  wanted to give back in a special way,” she said. “We feel very blessed and fortunate at the response from the local area in terms of getting the mill opened back up.”

Burkland pointed out that some of their vendors had donated to the effort, but the overwhelming majority were donated by team members.