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Mike Bunch: ‘You can’t take it all in and not give back’

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Mike Bunch

For as long as he can remember, Mike Bunch’s mother encouraged him to give back. Each year he would search for different ways to celebrate his good fortune and create ways for others to experience the same.

His first way of giving back was by sharing his love of music.

“I started out as a singer,” Bunch said. “What that did was allow me to give back at an early age, and my mother, Earlene Bunch, instilled that in me. She always told me that you can’t take it all in and not give back. That’s how she raised me. So from there I gained so much attention early on from singing, and I guess it kind of carried over into my adult years with people remembering me for winning talent shows and [being] recognized at an early age. That allowed me to be more productive in my giving.”

Today the Vicksburg native uses his profession as an instructor in the Vicksburg Warren School District to inspire the youth of the city.

“Now I’m an educator at Warren Central High School,” he said. “I also give back there by buying some clothes and stuff for the kids, just being here for a real reason. Some people aren’t able to do things, and I want to be that light in their lives that makes things easier. I just want them to know that I love them, and I want them to be the best that they can.”

Bunch also hosts multiple events.

“It’s the little things that count more than the big things,” he said. ” I do school-supply drives, take kids shopping for school. I do everything. I just like to make kids smile. Some parents do the best they can with their children, and sometimes they fall short, and I understand that. With all of my gifts and talents, I don’t want to take in everything and not give back. So it means a lot to me to give back to the community. I make T-shirts and own gumball machines, so I just try to get the students involved.”

Bunch says that with the help of his mother, Earlene Bunch, and his wife, Kimberly Bunch, he is able to continue the work he believes he is meant to do.

“They’re my support system,” he said.

Over the years Vicksburg has seen how much Bunch has given back to the community.

“This lady basically lost everything,” he said. “She had nothing in her apartment. I used my social media and some of my own funds, and we completely furnished her apartment. She had nothing and was sleeping on the floor. That meant a lot to me because it lets you know that there are still some love out here. Even with the recent tornado we had.

“I got up and saw that people didn’t have any lights or water. I took sandwiches out, and I wanted to feed the community because that’s what God wants us to do. I told people to come out and get a bag lunch and that meant a lot to me.”

Bunch stresses that it isn’t the recognition that he cares about; he simply wants everyone to know that he is always there.

“I just want people to remember me as a gentle giant,” he said. “I’m a gentle giant that is always willing to lend a helping hand and who approaches everyone with a smile. I’m someone who lives life abundantly.

“I also want people to know that if they need me, if I can be there, then I’ll be there and that I love them, and my love is genuine.”

Hometown Hero

Chris Gilmer, Hometown Hero

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Chris Gilmer shows Kofi Louis how to work his new lock. (photo by David Day)

The story of the 13-year-old young man, Kofi Louis, who had his bicycle stolen at gunpoint angered the community. The robber not only took Louis’ bike but his keychain containing his house key. Louis and his sister hardly slept for fear of the robber breaking into their house in the dead of night.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace along with Vicksburg Police Chief Milton Moore, Warren County Fire Coordinator Jerry Briggs and Reed Birdsong with Warren County Emergency Management, among others, came out to show their support for the Louis family and to let Kofi Louis and his sister, Alicia Louis, know they are not alone. Everyone was prepared to give money out of their pockets to ensure he got a new bike.

When Chris Gilmer of Vicksburg Locksmith heard about the families vulnerability because of the stolen key, he dropped everything to help. While the assembled law enforcement and community safety experts transported Louis and his sister to Walmart for a new bicycle, Gilmer stayed at the family home and installed a new lock on the door — a top-quality, high-dollar lock and dead bolt.

Gilmer would accept no money from anyone there for the lock, valued at several hundred dollars, or the service.

When the Louises and their new security team returned to the home, Kofi Louis was infatuated with his new bicycle. Briggs, Pace and Birdsong all started working to put on the new lights, and install batteries and water bottle holders. Gilmer took Louis aside and showed him the new front door lock.

Louis tested it a few times, closed and opened the door several times, and then had his sister stand inside and lock him out so he could test it some more. Over the next 15 minutes, while the gentlemen of the county were working on his bike, Kofi must have locked, unlocked and entered that door at least 10 times, each time looking in amazement at the craftsmanship and feeling a new sense of security with his new door locks.

To this observer, it seems Kofi may have been more pleased with his locks and door than with anything else. A sense of security can mean a lot, especially after what Louis had been through.

“They aren’t getting through this,” Louis told Gilmer with confidence.

For his selfless actions, his understanding of how the family felt, and his above-and-beyond efforts to make that family feel safe, the Vicksburg Daily News is honored to name Chris Gilmer the Vicksburg Daily News Hometown Hero for October 2020.

If you need locksmith service, please give Chris a call at Vicksburg Locksmith 601-529-0898.

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Hometown Hero

Woodrow Price: providing good male role models to Vicksburg’s boys

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Warren Central Intermediate teacher Woodrow Price.

Most people associate the word “teacher” with ABCs and 1,2,3s, but for one Vicksburg educator, being a good teacher has always meant something much more than that.

For Woodrow Price, lead teacher at Warren Central Junior High School, the job goes beyond reading and math.

“Most schools in our area are Title 1 schools. That just means we have large concentrations of students from low-income families,” Price said. “Most of the time when you have a lot of low-income families, you’ll find a lot of single parent households. Typically, there is no consistent father figure in these homes, and kids need a good male role model in their lives.”

That fact prompted Price to step in and step up, so he began several programs aimed at introducing successful, male role models in children’s lives.

One of Price’s programs is Real Men Read. Once a month, Price recruits successful men in the community to his school to read with students.

“The men we invite are businessmen, police officers, firemen, local politicians, you name it. I want the kids — especially the boys — to see what they can achieve,” he said.

Similar programs Price introduced are Boys to Men and Dress for Success. Those, too, are aimed at providing students with positive male role models.

“I grew up in a single parent household, but I’m grateful I had a grandfather, an uncle and a pastor,” Price said. “Too many kids in Vicksburg aren’t as blessed as I was.”

With the growing number of young people committing crimes in our community, Price said he felt something had to be done.

“It’ll really get you down,” he said, “and I found myself thinking how different things could’ve been for that kid with the right guidance.”

Price also thinks about how easily his life could have taken a wrong turn.

“I was lucky. I had good men in my life,” he said. “If not for them, who knows where I would have ended up?”

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Hometown Hero

Tracye Prewitt: ‘follow your dreams’

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Tracye Prewitt

Tracye Prewitt, an instructor at Dana Road Elementary School, met the challenges of being an instructor, and for 14 years, she has served as a mentor and positive figure to students at her school.

Her educational journey started at Mississippi State University as a history major, and later, the Lexington, Miss., native became a stay-at-home mother before moving to Vicksburg. She then decided to get back into the workforce, and Dana Road Elementary caught her attention.

As a member of the Dana Road Community Outreach program and faculty, Prewitt has brought several community leaders to the school to speak to her students.

“Being a part of the Community Outreach is a big deal,” she said. “One of our biggest events is the Leader In Me event, and that’s a team effort. My biggest event that I do is Read Across America.

“I strive to get people in the community and people that have an impact on our community to come out and read to the school. I want these kids to know that these important people such as the mayor, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the first lady of the state, representatives and former military generals think they’re important enough to take time out of their day to come and read a book to them.”

Even outside of work, Prewitt’s students are still her priority. She started an initiative to encourage her students to read more and to get the community more involved in education.

“I asked my friends on Facebook to sponsor my class for a month, and for $1 a child or $30 for a month, they bought the entire class a book,” she said. “Most have come out to the school, and read their book that they sponsored and presented the kids with the books. Sponsors have been (Mississippi Rep.) Oscar Denton, Shelley Tingle, Angel Meade, Tina Arrington, Robert Crear, just to name a few. The kids have loved getting books to take home that they can read forever. This bolsters literacy as well as community involvement.”

Pruitt hopes to continue being a positive impact on her students and let them know the sky is the limit when it comes to reaching their goals.

“I want my students to know that they can be anything they want to be and don’t settle for any reason,” she said. “Always strive to be what you want to be and follow your dreams.”

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