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All our children in one Vicksburg community

Vicksburg is one community made up of different neighborhoods and all walks of life. No matter where you live in Vicksburg, most need to drive to the grocery store, gas station, etc. So why is it an issue to drive your children to one of the many recreational or educational programs in various locations in Vicksburg, most of which are free?

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield and I met to discuss some issues within the city (more particular the North Ward, as I live in the North Ward.) I asked Mr. Mayfield about recreation. The first thing Alderman Mayfield said was “I will say it again and keep saying it, there are 22 parks/playgrounds in the city of Vicksburg with two thirds being in the North Ward that are free.” Mayfield said all 22 parks have been redone or refurbished (which is later confirmed by Vickie Bailey, Director of Youth Development for the city.)

Mayfield and I went on to discuss The Fuzzy Johnson Park on Mission 66, its progression/delays.

Mayfield said they redid the fields, installed 8-foot wood cypress fencing, redid the concession stand, will install new ADA compliant his and her pre-fab bathrooms (delay explained below by Jeff Richardson, Assistant Public Works Director and Project Manager for the city), added lighting to the fields, will build a pavilion that will have tables and benches, fans and lighting, and redo the basketball courts and install new goals.

To date (from another resource) city/taxpayer’s money has currently paid $203,655.63. In addition, the city has paid more than $40,000 to The Fuzzy Johnson Non-Profit Foundation to supervise programs over the last five years.

Jeff Richardson explained to me that the contractors are delayed with the pre-fab bathrooms at The Fuzzy Johnson Park because the distributors are not cooperating and the recent weather has not helped the progression of completing the other areas of the park. As the community is anxious for this new park, Richardson expressed “all involved with this project want to be finished for the community.”

I asked Alderman Mayfield about the Kings Community. He advised $1 million has been earmarked for Kings. The city is waiting on the Kings Community committee to come back with ideas for the community, and they are looking forward to it. A new playground and pavilion were built. The amount paid for just the pavilion and playground in Kings was $303,183.44 (from another resource). That did not include benches, grills, etc.

I had the privilege of speaking with Rev. Dexter Jones, director of the Kings Empowerment Center located in the Kings community. This facility is open Monday-Friday from noon to 8 p.m. This is a free recreation/education center to enhance what our children are learning in school.

The Empowerment Center receives a yearly state grant in order to provide meals to children in the center for free. Children can go to the center to use the gym for open play and computer lab for children to use for free.

Each year the Center has a summer enrichment program (this has a $25 registration fee), but Rev. Jones says he does everything he can to keep the cost as low as possible.

The Center has a basketball league for three and a half months for a nominal fee. 

Rev. Jones is a dedicated, hard working and positive influence for a citywide Empowerment Center for all of Vicksburg’s children. Rev. Jones told me the city of Vicksburg provides annual funding to the Center.

Based on another resource the city/taxpayer’s money from 2015-2019 contributed a total of $58,600 to the Empowerment Center as well as paid for the computers by the city/taxpayer’s money in the one time amount of $12,146.78.

The city wanted equity and accountability for the distribution of funds for all the youth programs of the city of Vicksburg, hence the appointment of Vickie Bailey, director of the Youth Development Department.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Bailey. First she did confirm that there are 22 parks/playgrounds in the city of Vicksburg and each one had a “facelift” and added ADA compliant water fountains. Next she discussed with me the Jackson Street Community Center (formally known as the Jackson Y).

This center is open Monday-Friday. While school was in session it was open from 2-10 p.m. It is also open on Saturday’s from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (closed on Sundays). They have classrooms, televisions, computers, open gym for open play as well as a playground in the backyard. She said there is a part-time gentleman who organizes some sport activities and games. The intent is to teach the skills for that particular sport/game to children. She also mentioned he is a mentor for the children.

The Jackson Street Community Center has a summer program that is six weeks long for ages of 6-10 annually. This year it will be June 3-July 26. This program is free and includes breakfast and lunch for the children. You may go to the Jackson Street Center for the form, or the parks and recreation department on Army Navy Drive.

This past spring, as they do every year, was a Spring Break Mini Camp. This included all types of sports so those children can learn one they may not know. This was a $10 fee for the week and it ran from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

Another youth program coming up is the Youth Eagle Training Summer Camp being held at Beechwood School. Due to construction to some schools, instead of being 8 a.m.-5 p.m. in the past, this year it will be June 3-June 27 from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. This camp will be free, and includes meals for the children. (Last year they charged $25 including meals)

To sign up call the City of Vicksburg Action Line.

Inner City Youth Baseball program will begin June 10-June 25. The cost this year for the first child is $5 that includes uniform (pants and top), and for each additional child is $2. The Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi has offered to hold the end of the year tournament at their facility at no charge.

A baseball camp will be held at The Fuzzy Johnson Park from May 28-May 31. There is no cost. A Basketball camp (location to be determined) will be July 22-July 26. There is no cost. Both camps have the intent on teaching the children skills, so they may prepare for joining a league.

Tennis lessons for children ages 5-18, will be offered at the Halls Ferry Tennis Courts starting June 5. They go Monday-Friday from 8a.m.-10a.m. There is no free. There will be a Tennis Junior Tennis Team on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. There is no cost, and there may be some travel with this, again at no cost.

Ms. Bailey advised me of the ACT Prep currently in session with one more session in June. This is at Alcorn State University, located at the Vicksburg Mall. The cost was $25 but includes four, 3-hour sessions. Anyone who needs assistance in testing abilities and/or the ACT is welcomed.

She mentioned children could play chess at the Senior Center for free. During the school year they ran an after-school program for free at two locations: Dana Road 3-5 p.m. and Warren Central from 3-6 p.m.

Ms. Bailey and Mr. Richardson also advised me of the Community Garden at the airport that includes walking trails and a playground, at no cost.

Ms. Bailey said to be on the lookout, there is more to come. More programs are in the works. She also encourages anyone in our one community to contact her with any suggestions for programs.

Final thought, aside from knowing all our city parks and playgrounds are free — splashpad, Sports Force during the week, skate board park behind the city pool (pool charges a nominal fee), the Lower Mississippi River Museum and Riverfront Interpretive site is also free including all of the above are for all of our Vicksburg children. Involve your children; socialize them with their peers of our one Vicksburg Community.

Gina Hendrickson is a volunteer community columnist for The Vicksburg Post.