GULFPORT -- While Veterans Day is normally a time of thanksgiving for those who have served in the military, Gulf Coast residents will have the opportunity to help others while remembering the nation's veterans.
A Veterans Day Pier Walk at Ken Combs Pier in Gulfport will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday. It will benefit Gulf Coast Public Safety Feed the Needy food pantry.
"We have two pier walks a year," event organizer Ken Combs Jr. said. "We have one on Earth Day to benefit the Feed My Sheep food pantry, which is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Gulf Coast Public Safety Feed the Needy is open those two days. The Veterans Day walk is to benefit Feed the Needy."
According to Combs, Wednesday's walk will include a veterans ceremony and a bonfire on the beach at its conclusion. Maj. John McCay, incoming Wing Chaplain for the Air Refueling Wing of the Mississippi Air National Guard, and Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania will be the guest speakers.
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"We will have a brief program before we walk to the end of the pier," he said. "We are accepting monetary donations and food nations for Feed the Needy. They cook all the meals, they package them and they deliver them."
Feeding the needy
Feed the Needy was founded in 1989 by Comb's father, former Gulfport Mayor Ken Combs Sr., as the Harrison County Volunteers to Feed the Needy.
Now in its 26th year, the nonprofit group includes volunteers from Biloxi Police Department, Gulfport Police Department, Harrison County Sheriff's Office, Long Beach Police Department, Pass Christian Police Department, D'Iberville Police Department and Gulfport Fire Department.
"Feed the Needy was started when George Payne was the chief of police in Gulfport," Papania said. "We've created a board of law enforcement officials to keep it going. Feed My Sheep does so much to help so many people. Feed the Needy is there on those days that Feed My Sheep is closed. It's a really good program."
As Wednesday marks the inaugural walk on Veterans Day, Combs said the Earth Day walks for Feed My Sheep have been very successful.
"They served their millionth plate recently, he said. "They serve meals every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving. This is our first time to do the Veterans Day walk. It's a way for my family, who helped organize it, and for everyone to honor their loved ones by helping others. Feed the Needy will help more than 5,000 people and we wanted to help them and pay tribute to our veterans."