Community centers play vital role in ministry


By the Advocate

When it comes to turning mission into action, few groups match the work of the community centers and agencies supported by the Mississippi Conference.

They are on the front lines of doing mission and outreach in the state. The work they do helps the communities being served and is central to the church’s mission and outreach work in the state.

Individuals and churches can be in mission with these folks by:

• Praying for their staff and volunteers and the thousands of men, women and children they serve
• Give of your time, treasure and talent to their mission
• Do some volunteer work with the groups.

Here are some of the community centers and agencies: or 601-355-0224

Bethlehem Center, Jackson — The Bethlehem Center is a national mission institution related to the United Methodist Church. Serving in one of Jackson’s poorest neighborhoods for the past 70 years, the center serves low-income families and individuals through affordable childcare, a free income tax assistance program, a counseling center and various community development initiatives. Recently it has expanded its program to include an infant room. Contact Tajuana Thicklen, program director, at

Edwards Street Fellowship Center, Hattiesburg — Located in the southeast corner of Hattiesburg, ESFC has served this low-income community for almost 30 years. The center’s programs include multi-cultural pre-school care and educational services for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years; a recently built food pantry has increased its capacity to provide food assistance to over 125 families each week; Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Girl Scout children ages 6-16 meet here; special programs to help girls develop their gifts and self image, and computer classes and social activities for older adults are also offered through ESFC. Contact Iva Brown, director, or 601-544-6149.

Good Shepherd Center, Vicksburg — This center made a difference in the lives of people in need during Thanksgiving when it gave out meals to 200 families. Through donations of food and money Good Shepherd was able to give these families their Thanksgiving meal and food for at least seven or eight more meals. Christmas is right around the corner and Good Shepherd has adopted 275 children to provide toys and clothes for this year. One cannot imagine the joy on the parent’s faces when they pick up those toys on Dec. 18 and hear the reports of how special Christmas was for their family because of this shared ministry. You can help by adopting a family or a child to provide Christmas. In addition to its Thanksgiving and Christmas food distribution programs, Good Shepherd Center ministers through its varied ministries of daycare, GED program and free clinic. Contact Tommy Miller, director, at or 601-636-7687.

Moore Community House, Biloxi — Since 1924 Moore Community House has been in ministry to East Biloxi. It provides childcare education and programs for community development and comprehensive family assessment and referrals. Since January, the former Biloxi Epworth United Methodist Church has been restored into a temporary facility for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years while Moore Community House completes its new child development center which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and is now under construction. When the new center is completed Epworth will become a community center. Moore offers programs to help single mothers working and/or going to school to help them gain self sufficiency including new job training programs in cooperation with HUD and the Biloxi Housing Authority. Contact Carol Burnett, director, at or 228-669-4827.

St. Andrew’s Mission, McComb — Since its incorporation in 1997 as a community center, SAM has been serving the Mc Comb area with a variety of programs serving the needy. The free medical clinic staffed with doctors, nurses and clerical personnel for people of all ages serves more than 750 patients without medical insurance. SAM also offers a special food service for handicapped seniors and a diner which is open to all and serves hot meals twice a week. Last year more than 100,000 pounds of food were delivered to seniors and/or disabled folk in Pike and Amite counties. The soup kitchen served more than 11,000 hot meals with 30 percent delivered to shut-ins. SAM also operates a thrift store and provides many other services such as GED classes, counseling service, parenting classes and even a parish nurse who provides holistic health care in the community. Through the Southwest Recovery Network, which was established right after Katrina to help people return to the life they had prior to the storm, there were countless homes in a five-county area in need of repair. Through volunteer mission teams, including St. Andrew, there are few if any homes left in need of repair. Contact Ed Codding, director, at or 601-684-4678.

Wesley House Community Center, Meridian —Wesley House has been ministering to and serving the needs in the Meridian area since 1904. With six mission agencies under one roof consisting of Christian relief, education, child advocacy/victim’s services, free clinic and community center, Wesley House is the “go to” place for these services to more than 33,000 people in need in 15 counties. Recently Wesley House has been transformed from the inside out with new building, remodeling and targeted new programs, specially designed to help people in the community be productive and healthy with a staff that is professionally trained and called to serve. One half of the clients now being served at Wesley House are first time “askers” with one-third of those having college degrees. Wesley House is concentrating on helping those who are ready to help themselves. Each case is dealt with on an individual basis, and all people are treated with the same love and respect, whether they live under the bridge or are in the same Sunday school class as the staf. At this time of year Wesley House asks people to make an investment in their community through the lives of the men, women and children who come their way. Contact Ginger Stevens, director, at or 601-485-4736.

In addition to the Community Centers there are other agencies supported by apportionments.

Methodist Children’s Homes (MCH) — For more than a century, MCH has provided care for the most vulnerable children and families in Mississippi. Founded as a traditional, campus-based orphanage, MCH has grown to provide independent living programs and a young mother’s program. Group homes providing love and safety in a therapeutic environment to children can be found in Clarksdale, Ellisville, Gulfport, Natchez and Jackson.

United Methodist Choctaw Mission — Since 1827 the Mississippi Conference has been working with the Choctaw Mission located on the reservation in Neshoba County. Despite the affluence of the casinos, a large section of the native population there is at risk with a special set of circumstances and needs with which our conference churches and missions groups could partner. The Rev. Jon Walters is pastor/executive director. He says he welcomes the opportunity to arrange trips to Neshoba County for church and mission groups, youth or other volunteers. Contact Walters at

These community based services and resources are also provided by MCH:
• Ensure that children grow up in safe, nurturing homes
• Help young people navigate adolescence
• Eradicate the social and family problems that lead to abuse, neglect, family disruption and child abandonment.

You can help by participating in the upcoming special offering at your church on Dec. 14. For more information, call or e-mail Becky Mercier at 601-853-5000 or

The Mississippi Conference also works closely with the Society of St. Andrew. Since opening its office in Mississippi and with the help of 4,000 volunteers, this agency has been able to save from farms and packing houses more than 3 million pounds or the equivalent of more than  9 million servings of nutritious food. The volunteer effort and donations allows St. Andrew to send this bounty to food banks, soup kitchens and others who participate in this chain to bring this much needed food to where it’s most needed. or Larry Woodward at

For information, Bob Fritchey, director, at 6010850-4018 or