17 Years Later, Harrison County Still Feeding Needy

Before volunteers took over the job, it was caring Gulfport police officers who cooked and delivered hot Holiday meals to the elderly and shut-ins.

Harrison County Sheriff George Payne was Gulfport's police chief at the time.

"We started this with police officers delivering and that's all we had. We don't even have to use police officers now we have so many kind hearted good people that come and want to help. It's a blessing," Payne says.

Seventeen years after it began, so many volunteers continue to come out for the Harrison County Feed the Needy program. In fact, organizers have had to adjust to the growing numbers over time.

"We started downtown at the Gulfport police cafeteria. That's where we used to do the cooking," says former Gulfport city council member Jimmie Jenkins. "We needed more space. We moved to the National Guard Armory on 17th Street and 33rd Avenue. Then we moved to the Air National Guard where we are now. The Air National Guard because they've got the big kitchen out here."

There have been other changes to make the feeding easier and faster like serving sliced turkey breast instead of cooking whole turkeys. And now many of the volunteers make the feeding a family outing.

Michelle Grell came with many of her relatives. "It means more doing it with the family because it makes the little ones realize that there are people out there who need help, and they are doing it for the right reasons."

Volunteers expect Feed The Needy to keep growing as they are doing all they can to spread the word to everyone they know.

Ann Bell, a volunteer for four years for both Thanksgiving and Christmas says, "I tell them they're really missing out if they don't come do it."

Organizers say they encourage volunteers to stay and visit with people when delivering the meals. They say for those who don't have families it may be the only fellowship they get this Thanksgiving.