GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Saturday rain showers made it easy for some South Mississippi residents to sleep in, but a group of around 60 volunteers knew their time was better spent in service.
“First I didn’t want to come here because I was like, ‘Ugh, it’s seven in the morning. I don’t want to leave,’” Jeremiah Clouser said. “But then I got here and I was like, ‘I like doing this stuff.’”
Clouser was part of the Lyman Baptist youth group, which teamed up with the Belair Baptist youth group, Gulf Coast Ministries and Feed My Sheep for a drive-thru pantry at Milner Stadium.
Pallets of food were unloaded off of trucks to be packed in bags and then sent off to people in need.
“We’re hoping to serve between two to three hundred families,” Executive Director of Gulf Coast Ministries Michael Wilson said.
Organizers understood the need for an event like this during the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our meals have increased,” Feed My Sheep Chairman Ted Riemann said. “We probably went from 400 to 500 meals a day to 800 to 1,000”
With a heightened need for food in their community, crews were happy to pack bags and load cars.
“We have an abundance at the moment,” Wilson said. “We just saw the opportunity to move that on to people that could use it.”
Organizers said that’s a common idea among most coastal residents.
“South Mississippi is a very strong community,” said Feed My Sheep Boardmember Will Shurley. “We make sure we take care of one another.”
Saturday’s event went on with the help from partnerships between local organizations and churches, but it was the younger volunteers that impressed them the most.
“It makes us realize that the future is really, really bright,” Shurley said.
Youth group members said they understand how important it is to serve others, especially in times of need.
“Some people would think that video games or TikTok, social media, would be way better than this, but I think it’s really fun,” Clouser said.
Volunteers hope to increase their crew sizes as they continue to serve their community.
“Any way you can help somebody, you need to help somebody,” volunteer Abigail Peterman said. “That’s what Jesus would want you to do.”
All leftover food will be handed out at the food pantries during regular distribution times.