They’re probably gonna need a bigger building.
The Lyman Community Center had lines of people wall to wall Thursday as first responders and community volunteers came together to feed needy people on Thanksgiving.
It was the 27th year for the Gulf Coast Public Safety Feed the Needy program, which has been growing every year.
The Campbell family of Long Beach has missed only one year since they started six years ago helping with the Christmas and Thanksgiving meal program. That’s when the program outgrew its old location at the Sheriff’s Office Work Center on Lorraine Road and the Campbells didn’t know it had moved to Lyman.
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Last year, 1,800 meals were delivered. This year, law enforcement officials say they expect to deliver about 2,600. The meals — turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberries, a roll and either pumpkin or sweet potato pie — are paid for by dozens of individual and corporate sponsors.
Inside the center, an assembly line of volunteers fills plates and then hands them off to others to be boxed and taken to a truck for delivery.
“It’s just an amazing experience,” said Bonnie Campbell, who was in line with her husband, Tim, son Caleb and daughter Beckah. “We also have two adult sons and when they’re in town, that’s the first thing they ask, ‘Are we going to feed the needy?’ ”
It started out as a project of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office but it now is known as the Gulf Coast Public Safety Feed the Needy Program because every law enforcement agency in the county helps out.
One year, the Campbells went on a delivery run.
“We went to the door and there was no answer,” Bonnie Campbell said. “There was an elderly woman next door so we asked her if she wanted the food. She invited us in so we went in and the kids sang for her.”
The woman wept tears of gratitude.
Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said the program shows a relationship between police and the community that is much different than the divisiveness often depicted in the national media.
“Look at this,” he said, gesturing to the hundreds of people chatting amiably as they patiently worked the assembly line. “It is one unified effort to do something good. That’s why it’s great to be on the Coast.”
Among the youngest volunteers were Taffyana Hill, 6, and Kristian McLemore, 7. They were with their aunt, Latanya Casteal of Gulfport, and six other family members.
Why get up early on a holiday and stand at a table closing the lids on a steady stream of plates?
“To help hungry people,” Kristian said.