Free Thanksgiving feast for homeless and helpless

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The feast opened with a simple prayer.

"Dear Heavenly Father, I come to you in Jesus' name today Lord. And I thank you for this Thanksgiving and these wonderful people, and people that prepared the food."

"Amen," the crowd responded before erupting in cheers.

More than 100 people gather at the Opal Smith Day Support Center in Gulfport Tuesday to enjoy a free Thanksgiving meal. There was turkey with all the trimmings, even gumbo, and tempting desserts.

"It's real good," said Jennifer Ortega, who is homeless.

"I love it," said Tammy Payne of Gulfport.

Most of the food was donated by the community and prepared by the "Mental Health Association of Mississippi".

"We have a lot of food, and so we want to get rid of it," said Program Director Shritha Johnson.

The people who came are suffering physically or mentally.

"Everybody here is dealing with something, whether it's homelessness, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia. But you never know it just by looking at them," said Johnson.

"I'm happy. It's something good," said Ortega.

Surrounded by good food and friends, the holiday celebration gave everyone reason to be thankful.

"Us coming together and eating together and no fussing and no fighting and I'm just tickled to death to be here," said Payne.

"This is what it's all about, giving and showing love to the community, and putting yourself last, and putting them first," said Johnson.

The Mental Health Association of Mississippi is also planning to host a free Christmas dinner.