Gulfport Ministry Comes Back Smaller But Better

The shelves are loaded with applesauce, canned goods, and hundreds of other food items. The Gulf Coast Community Ministries Food Pantry is open once again.  And bags of groceries are waiting, to go home to needy families.

"We give them food for the body and food for the soul," said Thelma Ward.

Ward began volunteering at the Food Pantry when it first opened at First Baptist Church in Gulfport four years ago.

"Oh, we saw an average of 50 families coming at one time," Ward said.

Since Katrina destroyed the Highway 90 property, church members have worked hard to move the ministry to a smaller building on Pass Road.

"We were hit so hard, and it was important for us to re-establish these ministries in this area, so that folks could get to us," said Director Chris Nuss. "We have a large number of homeless individuals and families that live in this area, so we're accessible to them as well. So we're excited about being here."

The ministry has expanded to provide more services. One of the rooms has been turned into a clinic. Four days a month, a doctor will come in to offer free medical care to the uninsured and underinsured.  A social worker will also be available for free mental health counseling.

"The stress is so great, and people are tired," Nuss said. "We can't build houses, but we can help with some of the other things that will help people to feel their best, and deal with the stress in a good, healthy way."

Whether it's food or faith, the volunteers are ready to reach out to those in need of physical or spiritual healing.

"This is a blessing to do this, and to be a part of this," Ward said.

In mid-July, the ministry will start English as a Second Language classes. To sign-up for a class, apply for one of the free services, or to volunteer, call (228) 868-8202.