BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – "We have no sleeping bags," a volunteer said as she looked over her inventory list.
The volunteers with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Fatima Catholic Church spent Tuesday morning trying to figure what they had in stock and adjusting to working in tighter quarters. But after a fire gutted their distribution center and destroyed all the donations ten days ago, the volunteers are grateful to have a warehouse to continue their ministry.
"To watch it go up smoke was kind of heart wrenching for me," said volunteer Ed Crouse. "And now we're back in business and we can help the people. I think it's a good feeling."
James Knapp was the first customer to show up on opening day Tuesday. When asked what he was looking for, Knapp replied, "A tent, some clothing, a blanket."
Knapp is homeless. He waited for days for the opportunity to stock up on free clothing and supplies to help him survive in the woods and make it through the winter.
"I'm glad. Get stuff done," Knapp said. "And I hope everybody else gets what they need too, because there's a lot of people out here that needs help."
Michelle Latham is also unemployed. The single mom was shopping for her two sons.
"It's a blessing, because the economy has went down and jobs have been taken," said Latham. "If it wasn't for Our Lady of Fatima or the churches, single mothers would have a hard time. So it's a blessing just to come down and get clothes for your kids."
The distribution center is sharing the warehouse with other groups at Fatima. The warehouse holds all sorts of yard sale items.
Space is still so limited right now, the society had to bring in two storage units to hold all the extra donations. One unit was filled on one side with bags of clothing that haven't been sorted yet. Generous people continued to drop off donations all day Tuesday.
"I got so much stuff now, I'm looking for volunteers to come and help me sort it out and straighten it up," said Crouse. "It's going to be hectic until we get our new building back. But we'll manage. We'll get through."
Even with the influx of donations, the organization still needs certain items like sleeping bags, backpacks, towels, sheets, and men's jeans. You can drop off donations at the ministry's main office at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church on Pass Road in Biloxi.