A great asset to Mound Bayou and Bolivar County
by Jack criss
The Bolivar Bullet
Dr. Shakebra L. Young is the Executive Director of St. Gabriel Mercy Center, a non-profit, social services agency located in Mound Bayou. “We seek to promote the well-being of all citizens within the Bolivar County community and follow the work of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” said Dr. Young. “Our mission is to provide an array of needed services to our fellow citizens.” The Cleveland native and Delta State Business Administration undergrad has been the Executive Director since July, 2018 who returned to take on her role at Mound Bayou after living in Memphis and northern Mississippi for 17 years.
“My goal has always been to return to Bolivar County to give back to my community. Prior to moving back, I worked in Walls, MS as the Director of Programs at Sacred Heart Southern Missions, which falls under the direction of the Catholic Diocese in of Jackson, as did St. Gabriel at one time. Upon accepting the position in Mound Bayou, I was honored to become the first African-American lay woman to ever hold the position as executive director,” said Dr. Young.
St. Gabriel Mercy Center was founded in 1999 and housed in what had formerly been a children’s Catholic School and, then, an early children’s development center in Mound Bayou.
Young, who holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work, a MBA in Human Resource Management and Doctorate in Human Services, said that St. Gabriel stands as a beacon of light and hope to the vulnerable persons of the community, not only in Mound Bayou, but throughout the Delta.
“Our emergency assistance program helps provide financial assistance to people in need,” said Young. “We have a food pantry here on-site that is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. as well as a thrift store which opens Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We gladly accept donations of clothing and other items for our thrift store. Our senior outreach program provide services to persons 55 years of age and older and is geared to prevent in-home isolation. We offer a GED program three days a week through our partnership with Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale.”
We also assist homeless individuals, and provide homeless prevention services to those who may be facing eviction or have no access to food. So, being in a position to help those in need and not turn anyone anyway is a true blessing. Additionally, we’ve seen a marked increase in food and shelter needs since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic; but St. Gabriel, however, as a 501c3, is fortunate enough to receive donations from private individuals as well as grants from various foundations and organizations to be in the position to meet those needs. We also partner with other area agencies in an effort to better service the needs of our clientele. So, I will say that we provide vital services that are beneficial to the overall stability and sustainability to the residents of Bolivar County and the surrounding areas.
“None of us know when our time will come–it’s frightening. We didn’t expect any of this that has happened. When hard times hit, there has got to be help and assistance available for people. I will honestly say: I needed a little help at a certain point in my life as a single mother and I received it. That’s why I wanted to give back—That’s why I am passionate about the work that I do as a social work professional — I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. St. Gabriel seeks to promote dignity to the citizens of Bolivar County and the Delta because we all, as human beings, deserve that.”
Dr. Young said she foresees the biggest challenge as that of transportation.
“Given we live in a rural area, clients who do not have adequate transportation experience difficulty in being able to come to the Center for assistance,” she said. “Although that is the case, we do provide transportation services to many of our program participants, and distribute monthly food bags to the elderly and disabled within the community.”
St. Gabriel has a staff of 15 employees, including Dr. Young, as well as three volunteers and two social work interns who help out in the Mound Bayou office.
Their website is www.saintgabrielmc.org to get more information or make donations to the organization.