Century Bank donates to George County early learning program

Local bank is hopeful more Mississippians will take advantage of it.
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 6:42 PM CST
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GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Do you know about the Early Learning Collaborative Tax Credit?

It’s a way to direct state tax dollars to educational programs in your community, and one South Mississippi bank is hoping more Mississippians take advantage of it.

For early learning schools like Head Start in rural George County, securing proper funding can be an uphill battle.

“In most Head Start programs, you receive funding from a lot of different sources. Here, we only receive Heat Start grants,” said Tanya Beech, executive director of Singing River Education Association Head Start George County. “There’s no other funding that comes to us other than our collaborative grant, which the school district plays a huge part of that.”

So when a large sum check is written to the school, it’s a big deal.

“Century bank is one of our lead donors. They’re a lead partner for our program. This year it is a large amount, $150,000.”

“We love coming out here,” said Peter VanLingen, CEO of Century Bank. “We love supporting it and seeing the progress, seeing the growth. At the end of the day, we feel like getting the kids started early in their education is really important.”

Century Bank is making that donation through Mississippi’s Early Learning Collaborative Tax Credit.

“The tax credit is a unique program just to the state of Mississippi,” said George County School District Early Learning Coordinator Kristi Kirkwood. “It’s specifically targeted for pre-K early learning collaboratives. It’s the only program of its kind in the state.”

“This is a one-to-one tax credit. If someone makes a donation of $150,000, they’re able to get that credited back to their Mississippi state taxes -- $150,000,” Kirkwood said.

“We make sure that that money is going where it needs to be,” Beech said. “Kids are first. Everything we need to do for those children is where that money needs to go first, and we support our teachers and we support that staff in that room and those families.”

Because of the unique ability to decide where tax money goes, Century Bank is working to get more Mississippians to utilize the program.

“I wish more people knew about it. You can really make an impact,” VanLingen said.

“We need to get that word out, not just for George County but for the whole state of Mississippi because there’s money sitting there that needs to be used in an appropriate way,” Beech said.

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