GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Hope Collins said she doesn’t ask for help unless she really needs it. On Tuesday, she and her grandchildren needed it.
They walked away from Gulf Coast Community Ministries with a bag of food and a gallon of milk that will help ends meet for the unemployed Gulfport woman.
“They help you any way they can," Collins said. "Because they always give you canned goods or whatever they can give you. They about ain’t gonna let you leave without anything. They’re here to help you.”
Collins was one of several people who came to the ministry’s food pantry that is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The ministry on 15th Street across from West Elementary School also offers an occasional medical clinic for those without health insurance. Every December, they host Camping for Hope, the largest homeless outreach on the Coast.
“We try to meet the needs of our community that’s around us in any way we can,” said Michael Wilson, Executive Director of GCCM.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit hard the west Gulfport community the ministry serves.
“The need’s been huge,” Wilson said. “Initially there was a large increase in need. That kind of subsided, stimulus checks came out and that need dwindled a bit, but it’s picked back up recently, and it’s just as great now as it ever has been in the past.”
“We’ve been seeing a lot of people who have lost their jobs,” said Ginny Cooley, food pantry leader. “We don’t offer a whole realm of services, but food and clothing, we can do that right away.”
Wilson said they serve about 1,000 clients a month, up from an average of 600 to 800. Those clients are very grateful for the help.
“The people who come here, they’re just so grateful," Cooley said. “It’s a blessing to us because they’re so receptive to anything we can do.”
“Excellent,” said Lee Menefield, who was there to pick up food for himself and his mother-in-law. “This church here, they help people out.”
Like all nonprofits, they rely on donations and volunteers.
“They’re incredible,” said volunteer coordinator Amelia Bordeaux. “They’re definitely our best asset, I think, because we’ve got the people, like you said, that come in that have the heart to serve other people. We couldn’t run without having our volunteers."
“It’s great to be a volunteer here,” Cooley said. “You’re working with great people, other volunteers, and you’re doing something very productive.”
“You just take care of the people in your own neighborhood, because they are your neighbors,” she said.
The ministry is currently selling smoked pork butts until noon on Wednesday, Oct. 21 to raise money. You can order them at GulfCoastMinistry.org.