GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A segment of the community that's been starving for help got a hot meal in Gulfport. For the first time since Katrina, Feed My Sheep served lunch to the homeless.
Two dozen people lined up outside Feed My Sheep's new dining hall late Monday morning. They heard the soup kitchen was reopening. And they wanted to eat. For Feed My Sheep's volunteers, serving lunch again was quite a blessing.
"What it means to me is that we're back on our feet," soup kitchen director Wayne Favre said.
Feed My Sheep's new home is a $1.2 million facility on 19th Street in downtown Gulfport. According to the organization's chairman Ted Riemann, Feed My Sheep bought the land, then gave it to Gulfport. The city is leasing it back to the soup kitchen. FEMA and MEMA also provided assistance to get the complex rebuilt.
The original idea of Feed My Sheep came from Ted Riemann's late father. The younger Riemann is now carrying on Dad's legacy.
"Our mission is to serve the homeless and the hungry and the needy. And that's what we intend to do," Riemann said.
Katrina washed away Feed My Sheep's kitchen when it was in the Gaston Hewes Rec Center. And at the time, with everybody needing to fix their own properties, rebuilding didn't seem to be a priority.
"We had doubts just like anyone else," Riemann said.
Right after the 2005 storm, Feed My Sheep temporarily changed its focus. Without a building for the homeless, it began working with volunteer groups who came to south Mississippi and rebuilt homes. But then about two years ago, a decision was made to refocus on this soup kitchen's original mission. Homeless people needed to be fed. So money had to be raised to give them a comfortable place to eat.
That facility opened on Monday. And Patsy Stone was there to serve Feed My Sheep clients.
"It's been a long time since the storm, and we've not been able to feed people who really need it," she said. "I'm thrilled to death to have it open again."
Riemann had a tear in his eye when he talked about the significance of reopening the Gulfport soup kitchen.
"We always thought the lord would take care of us. And certainly this has come to fruition now and we're happy," he said.