People in need often turn to the church. Now a push is underway to get more of our local churches and ministries to take advantage of a government program that helps them help others.
President Bush's faith-based initiative allows religious groups to apply for federal grants.A few months ago, Volunteers of America began holding month meetings with area pastors and other leaders to explain how the program works.
Volunteers from Pass Road Baptist Church have been making sandwiches and packing for toiletries for the homeless for three years. Recently, the Gulfport church took on a new mission: spreading the word about the faith based initiative to other somewhat reluctant church groups.
"They really don't want the government involved with their church or their ministry and so they're fearful that if the government gets involved they're going to be restraints. They're not going to be able to do what they to do, and that's really not true at all," Rev. Keith Thrash said.
Some coast charities have already taken advantage of the faith-based initiative. At Back Bay Mission that money was used to hire an extra staff member whose job is to access the needs of the community. Thrash says the government is finally realizing where people in need turn first.
"If they're evicted from their home or they don't have food or clothing, churches are some of the first places that they come. I think it's a shame that the ones they come to don't have the resources to provide for them."
"It's time for the government to recognize that religious organizations, and Christian people and spiritual and people of faith, are compassionate. They care about people and by providing some resources and some funds, many people's needs can be met that wouldn't be met in any other way."
Thrash says the type of charity his church runs isn't eligible for federal funds, but if that should change Pass Road Baptist will be the first in line.
To find out if your church or religious charity is eligible for federal money. You can attend one of the informational meetings at Pass Road Baptist Church in Gulfport. The meetings are held on the second Thursday of each month from 9:30 until noon.
The faith-based initiative does prohibit charities from making church attendance a stipulation for receiving assistance.