OS church steps up to the "plate" to help

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Right at 9 a.m., the doors open and people come in, feasting their eyes on boxes of food and countertops full of delicious blessings. Church volunteers make sure things run smoothly. They also receive something that can't be put in a box.

Brenda Bennett is one of those volunteers.

"It is a very rewarding experience to see the smiles on their faces and to see the love that they give and the love that we can give them also," Bennett exclaimed.

Ninety-one-year-old James Bellman receives assistance, but gives something back in return. Small handmade crosses that he hands out to anybody who wants one.

"I go to nursing homes, hospitals, churches, anyplace I think they might want one. I make them and just pass the time," Bellman explained.

This day, the Mobile based Bay Area Food bank has set up shop, conducting a hunger survey for those who stop by for help. The job has its special rewards for Latesha Edwards.

"This job is very fulfilling to me because I see the change that we make in people's lives," Edwards said. "We have so many people that come up to us and say, 'Thank-you for what you're doing,' and that's just to me a very fulfilling and heartwarming situation."

While there's no doubt that the economic distress of recent years has led to increased cases of hunger here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and indeed across the country, Emmanuel Baptist Church opens this monthly food pantry for other reasons as well.

Heath Hillman is the church pastor.

"We have folks that come into the pantry every month that have to make choices between medicine and groceries and they shouldn't have to make that choice," Hillman said. "And so a ministry like this provides food, provides comfort, provides a helping hand to folks who need it."

One of those folks is Pigeon Gibson. This trip to the church helps her already stretched food dollars go much further. And she's not the only one.

"It helps a lot of people besides myself. It's a blessing that we've able to come to facilities like this and get commodities," Gibson said. "Some people are worse off financially than others."

Even so, this food pantry helps soften that financial blow, one bite at a time. The Emmanuel Baptist Church food pantry is open on the second Tuesday of every month, starting at 9 in the morning. To receive food assistance, you'll need to register first. Be sure to bring proper ID and proof of income when you arrive.

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