By Samuel Bolen
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 22 years old, fresh out of college, and eager to be involved in my community. There was just one problem: I did not know where to start. I had a college degree, a promise of a part-time job, and no idea how to put what little I had to good use.
I recalled the name of one local nonprofit, Stewpot Community Services. That was about it. I couldn’t identify where it was located, the services provided, or the present needs. So, armed with little more than a name and internet access, I searched “Stewpot,” clicked “donation needs,” and read a request for deodorant for homeless participants.
This request was all I needed for an excuse to carve a new pathway between my home and downtown Jackson. Naively, I stopped by Walmart, picked up two sticks of deodorant, and hoped these items would at least be a first step to discovering more about the ministry. The deodorant delivery gave me the opportunity to meet with a staff member and tour the facility. But I didn’t just want to discover more about Stewpot. I wanted to learn more about Jackson, its neighborhoods, its people, its needs, its leaders, and its opportunities. Most importantly, I wanted to find my place of involvement, my place of impact.
Fast forward over a decade later, and I now have the privilege to lead the Jackson Leadership Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering ministries similar to Stewpot and connecting a growing network of volunteers and donors, people like me who love Mississippi, love Jackson, and want to make a difference. Every day, our team works diligently to provide programs and services within the city. These services are dedicated to empowering ministry leaders, developing new ministries, and connecting volunteers and donors. Currently, we serve around 25 ministry leaders participating in our leadership training, shared staffing, back-office services, and our volunteer platform. We have mobilized many volunteers to meet needs such as mentoring, emergency housing, access to clean water, employment, and much more.
While the work is rewarding, the relationships are transformative. I’ve had the privilege of linking arms with everyone from the homeless in the street to the principal at the school to the pastor behind the pulpit. I have officiated weddings, assisted in funerals, celebrated new jobs, mourned losses, and prayed feverishly for my friends in the city. I have found my place, and my place is Jackson, Mississippi.
I invite you to consider your place in our metro area. Maybe you are like me: Maybe you want to make a difference but don’t know how or where to begin. Maybe you want to volunteer, or maybe you want to start a nonprofit to meet needs. Let Jackson Leadership Foundation help you.
What is in your hands? Maybe it’s two sticks of deodorant and a whole lot of hope. Those sound like perfect ingredients for you to find your place in this beautiful city.
To learn more about Jackson Leadership Foundation or to volunteer, visit JacksonLeadershipFoundation.org or call 601-421-4445.