It is starting with a simple meal, but DeMar Hardnett hopes it will grow into much more.
“It all comes from my grandma,” Hardnett said as he and a friend prepared a spread of ham, macaroni and cheese, dressing and cake.
“She took care of seven grandkids. She made sure we ate, she also made sure her neighbors ate. I want to keep that going. I want to give back to other people.”
Hartnett’s grandmother, Diann Johnson, died in August from cancer. Hardnett said she didn’t tell anyone she had cancer until she had to go to the hospital. She didn’t want others to worry about her.
Hardnett calls his effort DJP Foundation for Diann Johnson Project.
Hardnett and his friend, Raymond Brown, staged a feeding for the homeless in 2015 at a restaurant they then owned. This year, they served from the retail store, B21Outfitters, they have opened together in the shopping center adjacent to Hobby Lobby in Biloxi.
“I wanted to feed families, not the homeless in general, but families that couldn’t provide for their children,” he said.
James Hamilton and his wife, Roxanne, were told about the free meal by Roxanne’s boss. The two work at fast food restaurants but have been homeless for about four months. Unable to save enough money for deposits and rent, they live in their truck.
“Every now and then we get enough money to stay in a hotel,” Roxanne, 38, said.
James, 32, called the meal “a blessing.”
“At least we won’t go hungry,” added Roxanne, as they carried their meals back to their truck.
“I don’t want to just do it for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I want to do it all year round.” Hardnett said. He hopes to raise money to provide scholarships, support cancer patients or help people who are going through “a rough time.”
Johnson “stood for keeping the family together,” he said.
“She was just the best person in my life, in all our lives.”