Good Shepherd director seeks to prevent poverty

Published 11:07am Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tommy Miller has a deep-seated passion for helping others. It drips from his voice when he talks and radiates from his smile when he enters a room. But Miller doesn’t want to just help those who are mired in poverty. He also wants to prevent Vicksburg residents from falling into its wicked spiral.

Miller, the executive director of the Good Shepherd Community Center, spoke about his vision at length Tuesday during an address to the Kiwanis Club.

“We believe in trying to make people not fall into poverty and not fall into circumstances within their control,” Miller said. “We want to prevent things that happen to them instead of trying to help them after things have happened.”

The community center Miller runs helps families climb out of their unfortunate circumstances by providing them with a host of reduced cost and free services, including a full-time day care and a free clinic. The facility hosts between 85-90 children a day and is instrumental in allowing low-income households to receive adequate childcare for a nominal fee.

Parents of the day care must work at least 25 hours a week or be in school full-time to receive the reduced priced, which can sometimes be as low as $10 a month. According to Miller, enforcing the idea that parents’ must work or attend school to receive benefits helps pave their road out of poverty by invoking a sense of responsibility within them that will spread to other areas of their lives.

“Prevention is what we’re all about,” he said, “and reaching out to our community and the surrounding area.”

As the school year quickly comes into view, the center is already beginning to register both kids and teenagers into its many programs.

“In August, we will move all our kids into daycare. We are now enrolling children in daycare. We’re enrolling kids in our after-school program,” Miller said. “(Our) GED program will be starting the second week of August so we’re now doing that, enrolling those too.”

The organization aims to circumvent poverty at its source, but it does provide assistance for those who are already poor. The state of Mississippi matches every $1 donation to the community center with $3.15, but Miller is still tirelessly working to provide Good Shepherd with increased funding to reach more people.

To volunteer or donate to the Good Shepherd Community Center, call 601-636-7687 or visit its location at 629 Cherry St. Regular business hours are 8:30 a.m. -4:30 p.m.

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