I am a native of Monroe County, MS. Although I am new to United Way of Northeast MS in 2020, I was the Director of the United Way of Greater Monroe County for 20 years. In that role, I am proud of the work we have done to strengthen the Monroe County area, particularly after the 2011 tornado outbreak that devastated the communities of Smithville and Wren. I look forward to expanding my work in serving the wider Northeast MS region. I hold a bachelor’s degree in English from Mississippi University for Women and a master’s degree in History from Mississippi State University. I am a recipient of the MS Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 Award. My husband, Randy, and I are proud parents of two children, Johnny, a meteorologist, and Chloe, a criminologist.
Director of Community Impact: Mary Ann Plasencia
I was delighted to join the United Way team in June of 2018. I’m a native of Tampa, Florida and a first generation Cuban-American. I graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans with a Bachelor in Business Management. Before coming to the United Way, I worked for Tupelo Public Schools in Community Relations and Communications. Tupelo has been home to me, my husband, Bruce Toppin, and our three children – Drew, Alex, and Gabi, for the last 25 years. I look forward to serving the residents and families of this region.
Campaign Director: Russ Wilson
I joined the United Way staff in July of 2014. I’ve spent most of my working career to date in media sales and management with time spent in both newspaper and radio as well as broadcast and cable TV advertising, all here in Northeast Mississippi. I’m originally from New Albany and attended Northeast Community College and The University of Mississippi majoring in Business Administration. My wife Annette and I are members of Wesley United Methodist Church and have lived in Tupelo for more than 30 years. She is a retired Special Education teacher and currently does Early Intervention for the State Department of Health. In fact, we met through her involvement with a United Way agency. I’ve served on the board of United Way, Yocona Area Boy Scouts, and over 18 years on the Tupelo Planning Committee. I’ve been a multi-year Funds Distribution volunteer and have served in other various capacities over a 25 year span with United Way. I am truly honored to join the staff as Campaign Director and look forward to contributing to the legacy of leadership that is such a rich part of the history of Northeast Mississippi.
Campaign Director: Mike Mitchell
I have lived in Lee County, Mooreville, all my life. My wife, Teresa, and I have 2 daughters, Elizabeth and Laura. I attended Itawamba Community College and the University of Mississippi and hold a Master’s Degree in Science Education. I also am serving in my 3rd term on the Lee County School Board. I am a member on the Advisory Council for our area 4-H and a member of the Tupelo Luncheon Civitan Club. Teresa and I are active members of Andrews Chapel United Methodist Church. Most of my career has been working in industry – Cooper Tire, Toyota Boshoku, and most recently Philips Day-Brite in Human Resources. Having been active in past United Way campaigns, I have seen the generosity of Northeast Mississippians in their willingness to help make a difference in our community. Working for United Way presents the opportunity to make a positive impact to many lives in our community. It is a blessing and a privilege to serve in making this a wonderful area to live and work.
Communications Director: Robin McKinney
I have been with United Way of Northeast Mississippi since 2012 and now serve as the Communications Director. I am a graduate of Nettleton High School and the University of Mississippi, with a Bachelor of Arts in English. I completed my master’s in nonprofit management in 2018 at Northeastern University with a concentration in social media and communications. I was recently named Person of the Year in the Daily Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 for 2020. I serve the Public Relations Association of Mississippi as president of the Northeast chapter and Vice-President of Student Affairs for the state. I am also a member of and manage Groundswell (United Way’s young leadership donor affinity group), and am a member of Tupelo Young Professionals and the Southern Public Relations Federation. I live in Tupelo with my husband, Brad, and my son, Jacob.
Administrative Director: Cara Waters
I have been with United Way since July of 2004. I am originally from Columbus, Mississippi, and attended Mississippi University for Women, receiving my Bachelor’s degree in 1996. My husband Justin and I have been married since 1997 and have two sons, Cooper and Samuel. Our family are members of Gum Tree Presbyterian Church in Tupelo. I am a graduate of the NEWMS Success Skills program. My most recent victory is that I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2015, and I am proud to say that I am a survivor.
COMMUNITY INITIATIVE PROGRAM DIRECTORS
Early Childhood Coalition: Shelly Brooks
I have been with United Way of Northeast Mississippi since 2017 and am honored to serve as the director of the Early Childhood Coalition-Tupelo/Lee County. I am originally from Blue Mountain but have lived in Lee County the past 24 years. I am a graduate of Blue Mountain College, with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. I received my Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and my Specialist in Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Mississippi. I spent 25 years as a teacher and administrator in the Lee County School District. I spent the last 7 years as principal at Shannon Primary School.
I live in Tupelo, with my husband, Harvey, who is also a retired educator. We attend Cross Pointe Ministries and enjoy serving our community through our church and local service organizations. It is an honor to serve in this position and be able to impact the young children in our community.
I joined the United Way staff in January 2019 as director of Volunteer Northeast Mississippi. Prior to that time, I had spent 34 years in education in various capacities, including a 22-year stint as a high school English teacher in Augusta, Georgia. I have a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s in post-secondary education. My husband Andrew and I both graduated from Tupelo High School, and we are proud that our daughter Lindsey did as well. While we thoroughly enjoyed living in Georgia, we were thrilled to move back to our beloved Mississippi in 2014. My work with Volunteer NEMS is beyond gratifying, as I get to see on a day-to-day basis the amazing work being done by our nonprofits and volunteers to help our neighbors in need.