PRVO executive director says $1.5 million put in county’s economy

Published 12:23 am Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pearl River Valley Opportunity Executive Director Helmon Johnson on Monday told supervisors that the PRVO organization pumped $1.5 million into the Pearl River Co. economy during an 11-month period from October 2009 through August 2010.

Johnson appeared before supervisors after Supervisor Hudson Holliday said during a Sept. 6 board meeting that he wanted more information on what PRVO does in the county.

PRVO is a 501(3)(C) nonprofit private organization that ministers to the low and moderate income residents, helping them with utility bills and other needs in case of emergencies and crises. The organization is supported primarily with government funds.

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Johnson told supervisors the organization does not just pay poor people’s bills but the group’s counselors also help individuals and families learn to create budgets and other needed skills to cope with personal problems.

“For instance, if we pay a person’s light bill for them, we find out why they couldn’t pay the bill in the first place, and then we work with that person or family to devise a solution to their problems so we won’t have to pay a second light bill,” said Johnson.

“Our case workers work with families to see if we need to help them with budgeting or other things that will help them get out of their problem, rather than remain in it,” he said.

Johnson’s appearance was prompted not only by Holliday’s request but also stemmed from a discussion with two PRVO employees at the Sept. 6 meeting. Supervisor Anthony Hales, who is board president, began discussions about the organization’s annual appropriation by the county, which amounts to $16,000 a year.

He asked for supervisors to look into providing the organization with space in the new Chimney Square facility on Goodyear Boulevard.

Johnson said that PRVO has  a large number of customers in the Picayune area and having an office at Chimney Square would prevent them from making a long trip to Poplarville to obtain services from PRVO.

Supervisors asked Johnson if Pearl River County cut out its financial support to the agency, would the agency withdraw from the county. Johnson said it would, that the organization’s bylaws require some support from any county in which PRVO operates.

Supervisors said that they had received complaints from constituents about poor service and favoritism, and Johnson said he receives the same complaints. He said the agency is always trying to make sure that customers are fairly treated and handled efficiently and courteously.

PRVO is headquartered in Columbia and serves counties in South Mississippi. The agency employes 350 persons.