Soup kitchen volunteers say this Christmas give more, receive less

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -  A Gulfport soup kitchen saw a lot more guests at the holiday dinner table this year. Feed My Sheep fed Christmas Eve dinner to more than 200 people. In fact, they say the soup kitchen is on track to serve more than 100,000 meals before the year is out, which is the most in its 25 year history. Volunteers help serve those meals each day.

People came for a hot meal, and most of them told the same story of months or even a year unsuccessfully looking for a job.

One man named Kerry said, "I'm looking around. I've been looking around for a long time and I'm out looking for a job and it's so hard to find a job."

Volunteers helped Feed My Sheep dish out the first Christmas Eve dinner in its new building. Denise Keyser and Julie Alphonso are sisters. They said the family decided to do something different this year and volunteer, instead of exchanging gifts.

Alphonso said, "We didn't want to get caught up in the commercialism. We wanted just a simpler Christmas. A giving Christmas.

Stacey Brown, 19, also wanted to give back. The first time volunteer said this Christmas has meant more to her than ever before.

"It just touched my spirits a little more," Brown said. "They don't have like the things that I have and just meeting them, their spirits are still so high. It just teaches me to be grateful for the things that I have and just never frown upon my situation because there is always someone worse off than me."

Layoffs and cutbacks mean more people are finding themselves in need.

Denise Keyser said, "There's a lot of people hurting from the recession and a lot of things that have happened in my personal life that have made me really reflect on the important things in life. It's not all about money, house, material things."

Feed My Sheep served its holiday meal Thursday because it's closed on Christmas Day. The soup kitchen reopens on Monday.

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