Small Gulfport Church Makes A Big Difference In The Community

In the wake of recent months, faith-based workers from across the nation have rolled up their sleeves to help rebuild South Mississippi. And churches right here in our area have also helped out, including some churches that were severely damaged in the storm. Gulf Gardens Baptist Church in Gulfport is one of those churches.

Katrina washed out the sanctuary of Gulf Gardens Baptist Church, but the massive storm only strengthened the church's foundation -- its members and their determination to help others.

"They've chosen to take the bull by the horns, and look at the community that surrounds them, and do what they can to meet the needs that exist there," said Steve Mooneyham of the Gulf Coast Baptist Association.

This is something Belinda Cartwright knows all too well. Katrina pummeled Cartwright's West Gulfport Home, leaving her with quite a mess to clean up, but her neighbors at Gulf Gardens Baptist Church rolled up their sleeves to help out.

"They sent a team in when I didn't know where to start and what to do, and actually helped me start and do most of it when I couldn't do it myself physically, to clean out go through and come up with something that's keepable or throw it away," Cartwright said.

The church has given away lots of clothes, and helped thousands here in the community, but church members here say their work is far from being over.

"We're roofing houses, we're cutting trees, just anything that needs to be done in the neighborhood," said Pastor Don Blackwell.

And this dedication to the community hasn't gone unnoticed. Pastor Blackwell says church attendance now is 4 times what it was before the storm.

"The church had gone to the point they nearly closed, and the hurricane almost put a finishing touch on it, but the people vowed to have a renewed spirit, and now we're running somewhere in the neighborhood of 44 people," he said.

And even though it's a small congregation, members of Gulf Gardens Baptist Church have shown a small group of people can make a big difference.