By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – As Tupelo’s homeless population has remained steady in recent years, compassion and donations of volunteers found through charitable and religious organizations and elsewhere try to keep pace.
Inside Tupelo’s Salvation Army on Saturday, volunteers from local churches served home-cooked, hot meals to hungry folks with few other places to go.
Each Saturday, 14 churches rotate home-cooked meal duties for the area’s poor.
This effort of Stone Soup Ministries, a collaborative group committed of churches, helps provide the homeless and poverty-stricken with tasty food and other important items for people whose safety net unraveled.
Hundreds of people from the region volunteer weekly, trying to ensure the neediest receive the most basic needs, whether through churches, nonprofit or not-for-profit organizations.
Tupelo native Melissa Pound led the effort for the Saturday hot meal effort after a Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Christian mission trip to help feed healthy food to people who otherwise scavenged for meals in garbage dumps.
She returned to Tupelo amazed to learn of hungry and poor living in her hometown.
She has dedicated much of her life to the food-driven cause.
“Lots of people could be homeless if they don’t get a paycheck or two,” she said last week. “I’d like to think people would do the same for me.”
Netttleton residents Ben and Christie Beasley drove a homeless man to a truck stop in Belden on Thursday evening for his first shower since Dec. 3. Both the husband and wife are currently unemployed.
“It’s very humbling when neither of you have a job and realize if you didn’t have friends and family you’d be in the same position,” Ben Beasley said.
At All Saints’ Episcopal Church, volunteers for Saints’ Brew fix breakfast plates for up to 130 hungry men and women, many homeless. They serve eggs, grits, juice and other items to each person who enters, no matter their religious affiliation, race, sexual orientation or anything else.
Retired insurance broker Margaret Barshaw, 71, began volunteering three years ago and said she loves the opportunity to help the community’s poor, homeless and often transient population. Looking around among a busy breakfast crowd last week, she said the area has many people in need.
“I don’t know how many there are,” she said, looking toward a dining area at the church. “But there are a whole lot more than this.”