Harrison County

Some families might not have Thanksgiving this year. Here’s how you can help

Morgan Shiyou, public relations director for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Area Command of The Salvation Army, puts together a ‘snack pack’ for a homeless person at the Command Office in Gulfport. The Salvation Army is in critical need of portable food for their snack pack program, which feeds the homeless over weekends.
Morgan Shiyou, public relations director for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Area Command of The Salvation Army, puts together a ‘snack pack’ for a homeless person at the Command Office in Gulfport. The Salvation Army is in critical need of portable food for their snack pack program, which feeds the homeless over weekends. tmsmith@sunherald.com

It’s the week before Thanksgiving, and lots of us are hitting the stores, buying ingredients for next Thursday’s feast.

While you’re there, consider adding a few cans of green beans and cranberry sauce, some dressing mix, and some portable food items to your buggy.

The Salvation Army Mississippi Gulf Coast Command Office in Gulfport is in critical need of food items for a family’s typical Thanksgiving meal as well as foods that can be added to the “snack packs” that are put together for the homeless for weekend meals, said Morgan Shiyou, public relations director for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Area Command.

Several food pantry shelves at the facility on 22nd Street are bare or almost bare. These include the shelves that usually would be packed with cans of green beans, corn, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce — many of the ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal.

In addition, the star of the meal, the turkey, is especially rare this year. A Gulfport grocery store had supplied the facility with turkeys in the past, but now that the store has closed, very few frozen turkeys are in stock.

“We have about 75 families we need to feed for Thanksgiving, and we certainly don’t have enough,” Shiyou said.

Beyond Thanksgiving items, the food bank also needs shelf-stable items, such as canned goods, rice and pasta.

“Just yesterday, we serviced 26 families,” she said.

But their most urgent need is for food to put in the snack packs.

Each Friday, the Salvation Army hands out the packs to homeless people. They include items such as granola bars; breakfast bars; individual pudding, fruit or gelatin cups that don’t require refrigeration; zip-open packs of tuna; crackers and pop-top cans of meat.

“Anything that doesn’t have to be heated up or refrigerated and doesn’t need a can opener,” Shiyou said.

Their snack pack supply is so depleted, the Salvation Army is in need of these items Friday morning, Nov. 17.

“This facility closes at noon on Fridays, so we really need these things Friday morning,” she said.

The Thanksgiving foods are needed by Monday, especially frozen turkeys.

“It takes a good long time for them to thaw,” Shiyou said.

Most of the Salvation Army’s food pantry supplies are donated. They have access to food bank items, but because the food bank has to buy the items themselves, they in turn must buy from the food bank, albeit at a reduced cost.

“And that’s money that we could be putting into other services and programs,” she said.

The Salvation Army is also preparing for their official kickoff of the Christmas Season at 11 a.m. Nov. 18 at Edgewater Mall in Biloxi, inside the mall next to J.C. Penney. Speakers will talk about how to help this season, including as bell ringers or “adopting” children via the Angel Tree program.

A food barrel also will be set up for donations. Coffee, doughnuts, reindeer and Santa also will contribute to the seasonal atmosphere.

The Salvation Army Mississippi Gulf Coast Command Office is at 2019 22nd St. in Gulfport. Items can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon Friday. The phone number is 228-374-8301. To volunteer as a bell ringer, contact Zach Rhodes, volunteer coordinator, at 228-207-2303.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

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