Lending a helping hand is what McCaa Russum, Program Director for Apelah Inc.'s new Home and Community Based Services program does best.
Russum started in February with Apelah, which had previously established a leading reputation in Mississippi as a provider of specialized foster care for children.
Expanding Apelah's range of services to the elderly and those suffering with the effects of HIV/AIDS is part of the agency's mission to "help those in need."
The agency took its name from the Choctaw word for "help."
"We are excited to announce that Apelah, Inc., which has been offering specialized foster care to children and youth across Mississippi since 1996 from our two locations (Hernando and Ridgeland), is rolling out a new Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program," Russum said. "This program will offer in-home personal care services to an initial population of persons living with HIV/AIDS (through generous funding from HOPWA/HUD) and private pay clients in DeSoto, Tate, Tunica, and Marshall counties.
"Services in this program include personal care assistance such as help with cleaning, meal preparation, bathing, running errands, household chores, and the like. We will also be offering attendant care and in-home respite care. We are taking referrals NOW for persons needing these services."
Russum grew up in Port Gibson, moved to Wesson, and graduated from Copiah-Lincoln Community College. A psychology major at Co-Lin, Russum attended William Carey University where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
Russum then worked for the Region 8 Mental Health Center in Copiah County. For a time he served as Assistant Coordinator and Crisis Intervention Specialist at the Region 8 Mental Health Center.
"My philosophy comes my faith in God," Russum said. "I believe Jesus was a person who is God incarnate who came to earth to serve others. We are here to be of service to all individuals and give them the help they need as best we can."
Russum said serving others is his personal faith calling but the agency serves individuals in a humanistic, caring way.
"It's our duty to help individuals who are hurting and meet the needs of individuals who have unmet needs," Russum said. "Our goal and mantra is to help individuals who are in need in all life stages."
Russum said Apelah has served the region with specialized foster care since 1996.
Expanding the program to the elderly is something that hits close to home for Russum.
His mom Sybil, 74, is now one of the half dozen or so and growing number of clients in the Home and Community Based Services Program.
"Our goal is to assist individuals who are not yet housed in facilities where they cannot take care of themselves or aren't ready to go into such facilities," Russum said. "Individuals thrive in their own home setting."
Russum is married to wife Tracy and the couple have a daughter, Avery, 7.
Russum is assisted in the agency's goal by a strong management team which includes Nathan Tipton, Development and Communications Coordinator.
"We knew there was a need in North Mississippi for this program," Tipton said. "There is no other type of agency that provides the services that we offer."
For more information about Apelah and its program for youth, the disabled, the elderly and people living with HIV/AIDS, call 662-429-3652.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.