Former NBA star helps 800 struggling South MS families

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi native and former NBA star Jonathan Bender is encouraging people to show compassion for those struggling in these tough economic times.

According to the Labor Department, applications for unemployment benefits rose by 10,000 last week which officials say is a sign that layoffs are rising and the job market is weak.  Bender and Feed the Children wanted to help South Mississippi families by holding a food giveaway.

Volunteers loaded boxes into car after car. Behind every wheel was a story of a family facing hard times.

Carolyn Warren said, "The economy. It's hard. It's hard out here. It's hard for everybody and I know it's hard for everybody. It's hard for me that's why I'm out here."

"I'm just the type of person that try to make it day to day. Disability. Disabled," said Alex McAfee.

Comswell Bachelor said her paycheck is getting smaller. "With like my job, I'm working less hours."

This is the second year that former NBA player Jonathan Bender has partnered with Feed the Children for the giveaway. He said he hoped the week's worth of non-perishable food and the personal hygiene items would ease some of the burden for 800 South Mississippi families.

"I think it's up to us individuals to help out as much as we can and not just depend on the federal government or whatever to do their part," Bender said. "We've got to do our part as well."

Some people said it's frustrating to be working hard and never getting ahead.The donations ease that frustration.

"I'm just thankful there are people like that who would come down here and help people a little more unfortunate than others," said Bachelor.

Sue Hartfield said, "We all really appreciate it because times are hard. Even if you're working or getting a government check, it's just not enough to live on. As far as food stamps, with prices going up in food, food stamps just isn't enough either now days even with us trying so hard and budget."

Feed The Children officials said along with the 600 families helped in Gulfport, donations also went to 200 members of Jonathan Bender's church in Pearl River County.

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