OKOLONA – The community will come together this weekend to celebrate an organization and ministry that has been working to bring it together for 25 years.
Excel in Okolona will celebrate its silver anniversary this weekend with a formal banquet for donors and volunteers and a day of activities aimed at those it has served for the past quarter century.
“We have been so blessed and I am so excited and thankful to so many people about this weekend,” said Sister Elizabeth Brown, Executive Director of Excel. “We have seen so much happen over the past 25 years and so many people have worked very hard to make it all happen. This celebration is about that blessing.”
The weekend starts with a formal dinner to recognize those donors and volunteers who have supported Excell with their time, talent and money. This event is by invitation only.
But Saturday starts with a barbecue dinner from 4 to 6 p.m. at Excel Commons. Plates will be sold for $8 with all proceeds benefiting Excel programs.
Young and old alike are urged to bring their bike, float or car to the Mini Park on Main Street at 6 p.m. for a parade down Main Street. This will be followed by entertainment and dancing at the Mini Park from 7 to 9 p.m.
Excel is also raffleing off three baby quilts sewn by a local volunteer. Tickets can be purchased at Excel or from volunteers on Saturday.
Excel formed in 1988 when the Catholic Church of Okolona partnered with a number of local agencies and numerous volunteers to address problems faced by the young, the old and everyone in between.
“I became the pastor of the Catholic church here in 1985 and after three years I had gotten to know people and seen many of the problems facing Okolona,” said Brown. “We were a small congregation and some of our concerns seemed insurmountable.”
Brown said her background is in education, and when three college-aged women volunteered to spend the summer in Okolona the roots of Excel were formed.
“We didn’t want another after-school or summer program and we wanted something that reached across racial lines,” said Brown. “We wanted something for kids, something for the elderly, single moms and for men, too.”
The Okolona chapter of the National Council of Negro Women was approached as were local churches and businesses.
“It all came together and at its core is the fact it brings people together,” said Brown. “There are lots of after-school programs and events for the aged. I firmly believe the reason we have been successful is we bring people – all people – together in this community.”
And this weekend’s event is aimed and recognizing and celebrating Excel.
“Excel has always been there for this community,” said Okolona Municipal Judge Sumeka Thomas. “I volunteered there as a high school student years ago and have been involved in a variety of projects down through the years.
“Excel works,” said Thomas. “I’m glad to be a part of this and urge people to support it.”
And Brown smiles as she says many of the problems first addressed by Excel can still be found in the community.
“I’m not sure we will ever be finished or solve all the world’s problems,” she explained. “But Excel is working hard at it. It’s been a grand adventure.”
Anyone wanting to donate to Excel’s silver anniversary celebration can call Excel at 447-3008 or Thomas at 447-3555.