Dr. Shakebra L. Young, a native of Cleveland, Mississippi, was appointed executive director of St. Gabriel Mercy Center on July 9, 2018 and is the first African American female to hold the position.
Dr. Young obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Computer Information Systems & Office Administration from Delta State University and a Master of Science Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Tennessee. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Human Services from Capella University. Dr. Young later obtained a Graduate Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Walden University. She is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration Degree in Human Resource Management from Delta State University.
Dr. Young served as an instructor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Mississippi and an Adjunct Professor of Social Work at the University of Memphis. She worked as the Director of Programs at Sacred Heart Southern Missions. Dr. Young is also currently a professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Walden University.
We had the opportunity to ask Dr. Young a few questions about the impact the organization has on the community, any challenges and growth strategies and how the Alliance can assist the St. Gabriel Mercy Center (SGMC) in their operations.
Ally: How has the Mercy Center impacted the community?
SY: Partnerships with local and state agencies have given way to a stronger program-based system. Time is spent attending monthly and/or quarterly meetings with partnering agencies. These partnerships serve as a collective platform that fosters unity and commitment as agencies work collaboratively to further address the all encompassing needs of the vulnerable populations within our service region.
St. Gabriel Mercy Center stands as a beacon of light for countless vulnerable and less fortunate residents throughout Bolivar County and the surrounding areas. In 2019 alone, the Center served over 4,000 clients through its programs and services. These services include an Emergency Assistance Program, which offers food, clothing, and financial assistance, General Education Diploma Program, Senior Outreach Program, Parents as Teachers Program, Sewing Program, Volunteer Program, Summer Youth Program, Mercy Center Learning Lab, and a Thrift Store.
Ally: Do you see an opportunity for growth? And what are the biggest challenges you anticipate?
SY: When looking at program evaluation, I recognize the still much-needed effort for growth as well as the need to improve programs and services for the clients, students, residents, and the Mississippi Delta communities we serve. As we continue to broaden our scope of knowledge by developing services that foster systemic growth among individuals, families, and communities, the Mercy Center seeks to implement educational and life skills; enrichment classes geared to provide clients and residents with an opportunity to acquire the essential skills needed to become self-sufficient.
Class topics will include, but are not limited to, adult and teen parenting education, nutrition and wellness, financial planning, credit restoration, anger management, conflict resolution, self-esteem, homebuyer education, and basic computer classes. All classes will be free to clients and community residents. I foresee the biggest challenge being that of transportation. The Mississippi Delta does not have public transit, and has limited cab services, so that clients who do not have adequate transportation will experience difficulty in being able to attend classes.
Ally: What can The Alliance do better to serve organizations like yours?
SY: The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy has done an excellent job in helping to educate and enhance organizations throughout Mississippi. The workshops and webinars are very informative and have assisted St. Gabriel Mercy Center, Inc. in strengthening its overall administration and our program base.
About the SGMC
The St. Gabriel Mercy Center began in 1999 and is in Bolivar County in the community of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. They serve the communities of Mound Bayou, Shelby, Winstonville, Renova, Merigold, Duncan and Cleveland, all of which are clustered along Highway 61 to the north and south of St. Gabriel Mercy Center.
The St. Gabriel Mercy Center is dedicated to working with organizations, programs and schools in the community with a focus on equipping and developing self-supporting, productive and successful individuals for our world. St. Gabriel Mercy Center is a faith-based, non-profit organization with a mission; rooted in the mission of Jesus and the tradition of Mercy, St. Gabriel Mercy Center seeks to promote and participate in establishing services aimed at enhancing human dignity for residents of Bolivar County.