GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - On Thanksgiving Day, so many of us should have an ongoing list of what we're thankful for. For some, however, they're not fortunate enough to have as much.
On Thanksgiving morning, Gulfport's Soria City Lodge #542 did what they do every year.
"We make turkey dinners, hot turkey dinners and we take them out to the woods," Brother Simmonds explained.
Once all of the dinners are packed, they head out for delivery. Their first stop is about a block away from Highway 49. It's a place dozens of people call home. It's also where you can find a man named Billy, deep into the woods.
"Billy! It's Charles!" Brother Pruitt yelled out.
Once you've made your presence known, Billy welcomes you. But not without getting permission first from his four-legged security guard that he's had for four years.
Billy has been camping in the woods for six years, and he says it doesn't have to be Thanksgiving for him to be thankful for the little that he has or to see another day.
"I'm alive and I'm above the grass. I'm not looking up at the grass. I'm looking down at it, so I'm happy," Billy said.
The lesson is this, those that are fortunate take far too much for granted. They could be living just like Billy, and that's the lesson that parents who brought their children out to help, want them to learn.
"Son, you see what it's like out here?" Brother Simmonds asked his son, Xavier. "And these folks, they had something, but situations caused them for their life to turn into what it is, but they're making the best of it."
"You've got to look for the best and try to succeed," Billy said to the children listening. "I got bad on my luck and that's why I'm at where I'm at now."
The kids listening said they had no idea life could turn out this way.
"It's pretty well how he handles himself out here. Like all the gentlemen say, 'he's a survivor,'" 17-year-old Xavier Simmonds said.
"I've never really seen it like this. You know, you see them walking on the streets all the time, but I've never experienced how they live and how they have to make do with what they have. It's sad. It really is," 18-year-old Britney Hidrogo said.
They're both thankful for this eye-opening Thanksgiving lesson and hope more kids can get the same experience.
"I really needed this," Hidrogo said. "I have a bad mouth. I always talk back to my parents and I won't do that again because I do not want to be like this. It's sad."
"I think they need to bring out more kids because a lot of us really do not understand how they live out here, like just how bad it is and we take stuff way too much for granted," Xavier said.
Soria City Lodge leaders say they'll continue to reach out to the homeless community even after today. They'll be collecting and distributing food, clothing and other supplies to deliver to camps.
For information on how you can help, contact Darren Jones at (228) 547-5292.