'50s Youth Return to Bethlehem Center


By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Communications Specialist, Mississippi Conference 
Photo right: From left to right, Willie Watts, Paul Hemphill, Mattie Johnson, and Arthur Brown in a classroom at Bethlehem Center in Jackson. Photo courtesy Bethlehem Center Inc.
Three men who attended the United Methodist mission, Bethlehem Center Inc., from 1950 through 1960, recently returned to the center, located in Jackson, Mississippi. Arthur Brown, Willie Watts, and Paul Hemphill were welcomed by the center's director Mattie Johnson. She said she enjoyed hearing their stories about being the youth of the center.

Watts, one of the former students, currently lives in Indiana. He posted the following comment on Bethlehem Center's Facebook page about his visit.

"Visiting the Bethlehem Center in my hometown, Jackson, Mississippi. I practically....grew up at his place. It had a major impact on my life during my pre-teen and teenage years. It helped shape me into the person I am today. Thanks, Bethlehem Center.  

Another past student, Paul Hemphill of Florida, expressed his thoughts on the center's Facebook page too.

"Yesterday, my trip to the Bethlehem Center with my brother and cousin brought back so many great memories of my childhood in Jackson, Mississippi. The Bethlehem Center, the Farish Street Branch YMCA, and Farish Street Branch YWCA were cornerstone social service agencies in the neighborhood. Sadly, only the Bethlehem Center remains of the three."

Bethlehem Center is a national mission of The United Methodist Church serving low-income families and individuals through affordable childcare, a free income tax assistance program, a counseling center, and various community development initiatives.

The mission of Bethlehem Center is to provide academic, health and community programs with a spiritual context.   The center's vision is to be an environment through which God transforms all who participate in the programs, enabling them to become who God calls them to be.

"Without the support of the church, we could not make it...We depend on donations to come in from the churches to help us make ends meet. We are doing some fund raisings on our own too. We are here for the children," said Johnson.

Currently, there are 35 children enrolled at the Bethlehem Center. Johnson and her workers care for them year-round. Her wish for each child is to have a positive experience as the former student.

For more information about Bethlehem Center Inc., visit http://www.bethlehemchildren.org/.
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