When your Crossett neighbor, Jack Allen — 1950’s CHS graduate and all-American quarterback — turns his thoughts to community champion Janice Clark, he remembers her as an uplifter. She uplifted the people around her. In fact, one such person was Phil Robertson, who was back then just a guy with some pretty cool duck calls he would like to sell.

As Jack tells it, after he and Coach Bobby Richardson introduced Phil to Janice, a phone call got made to Little Rock and the rest of Phil’s dream is Duck Dynasty history — maybe easier written than done,  but that’s the gist. The point is, Janice was an uplifter and an opportunity provider for people not only in Crossett but around the area.

And that is why it is no suprise that we at Parks and Recreation, after sifting through a handful of citizen generated nominations, have chosen Mrs. Toyce Newton as the first ever recipient of our Janice Clark Millwhistle Award.

Mrs. Newton has found her niche in being the wind beneath the wings of so many area youth. In her first years as a professional she held multiple positions at the Department of Human Services that allowed her to give ground to neglected and abused youth, some of which had turned to crime.

True to her Crossett-strong spirit, she took her dreams quite a few steps further and in 1981 found herself  working at a community mental health center where, according to her friend,  colleague and family member Christie Lindsey, she not only spent her efforts on individual teens in need, she helped develop local and state policies that touched the lives of at-risk teens through placement services.  That pushed her wind of support under quite a few more wings.

In 1995, further displaying the strength of her Crossett spirit by taking her efforts up yet another notch, Mrs. Newton founded Phoenix Youth and Family Services. Through it, her and the staff she has designed create economic, social, and community development opportunities in rural and impoverished counties in our region.

To house such champion sized causes, Phoenix Youth and Family Services sits in quite an unassuming building along Crossett’s Alabama Street. Its insides are decorated with a muted touch of class —clean and attractive but  not prideful and pretentious. It is here that Mrs. Newton calls home base for her selfless natured work, her work that puts Crossett on the map, her work that shows Crossett to be a place where challenges are overcome and where meaningful, long-lasting and far reaching youth programs are born. It is a place where concrete social change starts. Our first Janice Clark Millwhistle Award recipient, Crossett native, Mrs. Toyce Newton, has made little bitty Crossett bigger than life. 

It is also noteworthy that Mrs. Newton’s work puts Crossett on the lips of people across the country by being cited in multiple publications and conferences--we will stop here to name a few: 

-The Center for Law and Social Policy - Connecting Disconnected Youth and Disconnected Systems: Innovative Community Approaches, May 6, 2005

-The Family Squeeze, May 2005; and Making the Juvenile JusticeWorkforce System Connection for Re-Entering Young Offenders, A Guide for Local Practice, Nov. 2006

-American Youth Policy Forum, Youth Opportunity Grants: Experiences and Lessons from the Sites A Forum, Jan., 2002

-National Association of Workforce Boards Forum, Hey! What About Me? The Youth Landscape, March 2003

- 1st Jobs Institute, Best Practices for First Time Employment, Final Report, Prepared for: Workforce Florida and Agency for Workforce Innovation, State of Florida, June 2002.  

Not one to sit idly by even outside her work  hours, Mrs. Newton has volunteered her time by serving on several notable boards, including the Arkansas Department of Education, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Arkansas 4-H Foundation, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Vera Institute of Justice, National Youth Employment Coalition, Arkansas out of School Network, funded by the Mott Foundation.  

She currently holds a seat on the board of Crossett’s First State Bank and the Arkansas Charter Review Panel. 

Mrs. Newton’s tireless efforts have netted her numerous awards and it is with honor that we add our award to them. 

It is also with honor that we congratulate her husband Herman, her sons Marcus, Roderick, and Joshua and her grandchildren Roderick Jr. and Nyla for having such a wonderful role model to pattern after and support, a role model that Mrs. Lindsey describes as competent, confident, connected and community concerned, and one that we at Parks and Recreation call deserving. 

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