Food, fellowship and fundraising: Grace Christian Counseling Center turns 25
Published 4:00 am Sunday, September 3, 2023
In 1998, three local churches embarked on a mission to provide professional and accessible counseling to the Vicksburg area for people facing a variety of mental health and family problems.
The undertaking was bold, but the Grace Christian Counseling Center flourished, and this year the non-profit is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a progressive dinner fundraiser, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 21.
“The progressive dinner is a fundraiser that we used to conduct many years ago, and we wanted to hold an event that reflects the legacy of the churches that have supported Grace since the beginning,” Grace Christian Counseling Center executive director Dr. Walter Frazier said. “Our three courses of the meal occur at First Presbyterian Church, Crawford Street United Methodist Church, and Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal, the three founding churches of this ministry. And this event is a way to bring the three churches together again, an important cooperative relationship that has been central to Vicksburg over the decades.”
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First Presbyterian, 1501 Cherry St., will offer appetizers from 6 to 7 p.m. followed by the main course, which will be served from 7 to 8 p.m. at CSUMC, 900 Crawford St. Desserts and entertainment will be provided from 8 to 9 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal, 900 South St.
Grace business manager Laura Jones said appetizers and desserts will be a variety of samplings provided by the respective churches and dinner will be a sit-down meal consisting of bacon-wrapped stuffed pork tenderloin, baked green beans, rice pilaf, bread and drinks.
Tickets are $60 for individuals or $100 for a couple.
In addition to the progressive dinner, a silent auction with more the $10,000 worth of unique finds, gift certificates and local arts will be available for bids. Items include 50-yard line tickets to the LSU-Auburn game, an original H.C. Porter painting with museum-quality framing, a signed Warren Morris LSU jersey, a Steve Gleason jersey and gift certificates.
“The silent auction will initially start online,” Jones said, with the bidding transferring to paper at the start of the appetizer course. “It will end during the dessert course at Holy Trinity with winners being announced there.”
“When Grace started on Sept. 1, 1998, there were four part-time counselors working out of the office at 1414 Cherry St.,” Jones said. “Over the next few years, Grace’s outreach stretched beyond just Vicksburg, and it expanded into the Port Gibson community.
“In October 2003, Dr. Lynn Etheridge joined the staff, and she began seeing clients out of an office, courtesy of her home church, Port Gibson United Methodist Church,” she added. “As more time passed, the reach of Grace extended even further. First Presbyterian Church Canton provided a space in Canton for Grace to operate out of there. Now, 12 churches participate in the cooperative ministry.”
Grace expanded further as it began offering telehealth appointments.
“Telehealth appointments were beginning to emerge in healthcare, so Grace wanted to stay with the times,” Jones said. Therefore, the staff began researching and educating themselves, on how to reach every corner of Mississippi through the internet, she said.
Ironically, after telehealth appointments were made available through Grace, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, leaving many without mental health support. Grace, however, was able to continue since it was ready with the technology needed to provide services without in-person visits.
“Telehealth took off as an amazing outlet for those who were stuck in the house to talk with someone via video,” Jones said.
Since the pandemic, Jones said Grace still provides services at its three physical locations, is still providing Telehealth care statewide and currently has 15 counselors on staff.
“And we are still seeing people regardless of income and insurance status,” Jones said. In fact, in 2022, Grace discounted fees by $279,308.69 and provided services for 746 individuals, couples, and families for 4,426 sessions.
“I’ve been a part of a ministry that has proven to be an important part of our community and I truly appreciate the chance to be a part of a ministry that has positively impacted so many people, both clients and counselors, over this period of time,” Frazier said. “For me, I believe I am fulfilling a call to be in the ministry of connecting the mission of the church with the people in the community. To have the opportunity to focus on this ministry for 25 years is a privilege.”
Jones said Grace’s mission is to “radically accept people for who they are and seek to promote wholeness. And with a focus on higher standards, we seek to maintain a network of qualified professionals using evidence-based practices to serve diverse populations. We also endeavor to be recognized for leadership and excellence in the journey toward wellness.”
“We are living our mission statement to the fullest, and I am grateful for the support of our partner churches, the United Way, and so many members of our business and social community that have come together to help us achieve that mission,” Frazier said.