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Good Shepherd’s services reaching further than ever

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Executive Director Cindy McCarley (left) and Faculties Director Mark Mitchell (right). Photo Credits to GoodShepherdVicksburg.org
Executive Director Cindy McCarley (left) and Faculties Director Mark Mitchell (right). Photo Credits to GoodShepherdVicksburg.org

Good Shepherd has gone from a community center and preschool, to a full blown outreach organization covering the needs of many in the community. “It’s really amazing,” expressed Executive Director Cindy McCarley concerning the exponential growth of the organization.

Good Shepherd started 1987 when Rev. Bill and Meta Watkins started a daycare in their home to help working parents. When the success of this venture soon required more space, the Watkins family made a deal with the Vicksburg Warren School District to use the current building at a low cost. The site itself boasts much history as the location of McIntyre Elementary School, as well as the site of one of the first Freedmen’s schools which were established after the Civil War for education of children of formerly enslaved persons.

Since then, Good Shepherd’s services, as well as those they serve have grown exponentially. Their preschool, which is offered from 6 weeks old to the age of 5, serves 148 kids currently.

Good Shepherd has also seen great success with their after school and summer camps.

“Then we have the Ripple Effect,” stated McCarley, “which is what we call our volunteer program which reaches out into our community.” Good Shepherd also serves about 300 kids each year through their Christmas program, Elf Magic, wherein members of the community provide presents to less fortunate children. At Thanksgiving, Good Shepherd has served over 200 local elderly persons with the help of the community which collects food to be offered in a drive-through fashion.

McCarley recalled her own reluctance to leave her former job when she first interviewed at Good Shepherd in 2019. Having worked 29 years at the Warren County Children’s shelter as counselor and Program Director, she never planned to leave until she felt a calling she could not ignore.

Since then her new commitment has yielded great results for the community. Along with the expansion of programs and services, McCarley and her right hand man, Faculties Director Mark Mitchell, have overseen extensive updates to the building itself such as a new roof as well as new doors and LED lighting.

 

Before and after of the building for Good Shepherd. Credit for photos to Cindy McCarley and Mark Mitchell

McCarley stressed the extent to which Good Shepherd has been blessed with what they need through the support of various extremely generous donors and volunteers: “People just show up and they want to do great things.”

While McCarley’s current team has been instrumental in updating the building and programs, she stressed the previous efforts as laying the groundwork for her team’s success.

“We have been able to rise above because of those who came before us.”

Good Shepherd remains committed to helping children and their families as a whole. As McCarley put it, “We want to make sure the whole family is loved. If a mom is struggling we would find a way to reach her needs, whether that’s calling a donor or using resources.”

Plans for the upcoming year include becoming a Car Seat Site, where they can hand out car seats and train parents to use them. When asked what their current greatest need is, McCarley pointed out the parking lot. McCarley expressed her confidence that everything they need to thrive will be provided in good time, “God has truly blessed us and continues to show up and out.” 

Good Shepherd can be contacted at 601-636-7687 or at 629 Cherry St. in Vicksburg

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