HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - There is a shortage of licensed foster homes in Harrison County and Michael Memorial Baptist Church is stepping in to help.
The project is called Rescue 100.
Sunday began a long process for families willing to take on the task as foster parents.
Harrison County Youth Judge Margaret Alfonso began the night with this simple plea: "They need you. They need you. They need you."
"They" are the 778 children currently in the custody of the Harrison County Department of Human Services.
And Alfonso says the effort by Michael Memorial Baptist Church to recruit 100 families stands to make her job much easier.
"It makes it worth getting up in the morning and doing what we do, which is very, very difficult," she said. "There's nothing we do at youth court more difficult than remove a child from a biological family."
The event attracted about 200 people to Michael Memorial Baptist Church to hear the details about the process.
It can be intimidating taking up to 90 days of classes, home study and approval before a license is granted.
But many were not dissuaded.
"We're not concerned about the length of time it's going take to get licensed," said Mike Dickinson of Gulfport. "We feel a calling to do it. We're going to do it. And we're very excited about it."
Tony Karnes, pastor of Michael Memorial, says having a church family as a partner in the process is a deal maker.
"I feel like Christians ought to be leading the way in taking care of the needs of the orphans in our community or maybe those who are just in a time of transition or whatever the need may be."
Karnes said his church plans to work with other churches in Harrison County to partner with the Harrison County Youth Court and Harrison County Department of Human Services.
Michael George and his wife of Pass Christian are studying the details before total commitment, but they know how important it is.
"We're in a bad place when it comes to parents not stepping up and doing their job and just want to show kids the love of Jesus."
For Brent Knesal, the best qualification is simple.
"Just willingness to serve," he said. "Just want to actually help, a desire to love children who don't have another resource for love really."