Every April in Jackson, people from all over the area gather together by volunteering to contribute to the annual event “Month of Miracles.” Month of Miracles is a program started by Mayor Jerry Gist to give volunteers the opportunity to be connected to a service project that meets with their individual passions and interests. There are opportunities to help by painting, gardening, photography, and cleaning to just name a few. Mayor Gist’s hope is that the people of Jackson will find opportunities related to the things that they are passionate about so that volunteering isn’t simply something that needs to be done but a fun activity for everyone to enjoy.
Jackson has its very own superhero who saves the community by volunteering, helping others, and encouraging others to also be a part of a community service project: Miracle Man! Although he may only be nine years old, Miracle Man has a lot to say when it comes to volunteering and helping the community to bring citizens close together. “There are lots of different great things to do for your community,” he says.
What do you think the Month of Miracles is?
First of all, I want to say that April is a really good month. It’s a time where people all volunteer for a community service project. Another thing about it is it brings unity to our community.
What do you do as Miracle Man?
I do preach a lot, and I volunteer at RIFA. My whole purpose is to get people to volunteer and to encourage people to get out and make a difference in the community.
What do you think it means to be Miracle Man?
I think it means that you go out and encourage people to help and volunteer.
What has been your favorite way of helping the community so far?
At stores and restaurants I hold the door open for people a lot. I enjoy opening the door for everybody. I also went to the Red Heart studio where I made a video to tell people to volunteer for a service project.
Why do you think it is important that people volunteer?
Because when people volunteer, they help other people, and everybody deserves a good helping hand no matter what they did, or where they’re from, or who they are.
Monique Merriweather, Jackson’s Director of Neighborhood Services, also has much to say about the Month of Miracles and what volunteering opportunities it has to offer.
“I’ve seen people develop friendships and churches fellowship together, so you get religious groups coming together outside of the four walls of their church. There are civic groups working on projects for the elderly, disabled, and handicap.”
Monique has been working with the city for twenty years. She started out as a 911 dispatcher for the Jackson police and fire departments. She said that when Mayor Gist took office, one of his concerns for the city was crime, so he appointed her as the Director of Neighborhood Services to address priorities that were given in the Safe Neighborhood Task Force. “One of the priorities was getting the community more involved in service projects,” she said.
Month of Miracles has been that way to unify the community. “What we realized is that there were a lot of people that lived in the east side that didn’t know people who lived in the north side. We were so isolated. Month of Miracles gives people an opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and get out of their area of town and get into another area of town to help somebody and engage those individuals. We want them to really build relationships because that is what it is all about: building lifelong relationships with people you wouldn’t normally connect with.”
One of the goals of Month of Miracles is to not only get people volunteering but getting them to find something that they are passionate about. “Don’t just volunteer, but do something that you are really going to enjoy doing. We don’t want you to be volunteering just to be volunteering. Volunteering is good, and we want you to be enjoying what you’re doing.”
Monique can name many examples of passions that people can use to find ways of volunteering, but her favorite way of volunteering is getting to work in the community gardens. “I guess for me it’s being able to plant a little seed and watch it grow,” she says. “That’s kind of the whole concept behind the Month of Miracles. We are planting seeds in the lives of these people, and over the years we want those relationships to grow and to bloom.”
Month of Miracles will have its kick-off event April 1 at City Hall. For more information about the Month of Miracles and how you can find an opportunity to volunteer, visit their website.
Allison Burnett is a senior at the University of Memphis at Lambuth and is a Communications major with a minor in English. She has lived in Jackson since 2013 and enjoys reading, writing, and drinking the largest cup of coffee she can find.
Photography provided by Monique Merriweather and the City of Jackson.