Bethlehem Enrollment Jump Creates Need for Van


 By Tamica Smith-Jeuitt


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Mattie Johnson, executive director of the Bethlehem Center in Jackson greets Kimberly Steel who is arriving to the center for the after school program.

There has been an increase in afterschool enrollment at the Bethlehem Center in Jackson. This is great news for the center which sits in the heart of one of the poorest areas in Jackson with a mission to aide the neighborhood and low income families by offering affordable childcare. Enrollment is up from 15 children to 25 since the start of the 2012-13 school year. However, the surge has produced the need for another passenger van, especially on Wednesday, the only day of the week that Galloway United Methodist Church is unable to lend the center their van.  Thanks to the generosity of Galloway, two vans are used to pick up children from seven schools and transport them to the Bethlehem Center.


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Kimberly Steel and Shetavia Tarvin seen near the van that takes them to the afterschool program at the Bethlehem Center in Jackson.

"Galloway continues to be so gracious to us. We have been using their vans the last year and half, but desperately need our own," said Mattie Johnson, executive director of Bethlehem Center.    


The center has one 15 passenger van. On hump day, its driver makes multiple trips to the elementary schools which delays pick up at the middle school subsequently cutting down on the time children spend with volunteer tutors and work study students from Millsaps College who help the youngsters with homework.    


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Veronica Herrin, a Millsaps
College work study student helps a child with his homework at the Bethlehem Center.

Parents pay $55 per week for one child in the Bethlehem Center afterschool program.   The cost is the same during the summer when the kids are at the center all day.   The transportation hassle is also an issue in the summer time.  

"When we take field trips, we have to take one group, drop them off with a teacher and come back for the group or we take one group one day and another group the next day," said Johnson.    


Johnson is interested in hearing from anyone who may want to donate a passenger van to the center.


"We will take a used van. It doesn't matter as long as it is something they would put their children or grandchildren in," said Johnson.  


The Bethlehem Center is a National Mission Institution related to the United Methodist Church which provides a free income tax assistance program, a counseling center and various community development initiatives in addition to affordable quality childcare.    

To contact Mattie Johnson call, 601-355-0224 or email to