Jackson County

Real stars of Feed the Need are the volunteers

OCEAN SPRINGS -- Music will be a big part of the attraction for the third-annual Feed the Need ... music, fried fish and a very worthy cause.

Think small venue, the parking lot at Government Street Grocery, and musicians who are popular locally, along with two who tour nationally and have made a mark for themselves.

Cary Hudson, who was chosen among Top Ten Alternative Country Guitar Players by Gipson magazine, and Grayson Capps, who wrote and sang for the score of Golden Globe-nominated film (now on Netflix) "A Love Song for Bobby Long," will be joined by Corky Hughes. Local favorites Blackwater Brass also will take the stage. Other musical guests include Rooster Bluegrass and Paul Kirkland & Friends.

But the real stars of the event are the volunteers -- a community coming together to fill a need at The Lord is My Help food pantry and soup kitchen.

Patrick Sullivan, owner of Government Street Grocery, said last year there were so many people in volunteer T-shirts, it looked alike a sea of them in the crowd. And the committee that puts together the event is a group of young professionals with great ideas and a lot of energy.

Head of the committee, Liz LeBleu, doesn't even like to be called chairwoman, because she said it's such a creative, group effort.

Last year they sold several hundred more tickets than the 500 printed. This year, they're aiming at selling 1,000 and already estimate pre-sales at 500.

Tickets go on sale soon for the May 15 event.

Raising awareness

Feed the Need is a great source of income for The Lord is My Help, but it also raises awareness, "as we strive to end hunger and help people in need throughout our lovely community," LeBleu said.

"We started this because they said they were struggling," she said. "It keeps them afloat."

The first year, they raised $9,000. Last year it was $18,000. This year, the committee hopes to double the donation again.

Every bit of the money raised goes right across the street to the soup kitchen, Sullivan said, that's the beauty of having a community fundraiser.

The Lord is My Help, at 1205 DeSoto St., behind Phoenicia restaurant, is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. It provides meals to the elderly and home-bound, but also gives out meals and groceries to working families that can't make ends meet. LeBleu said it doesn't question need.

The nondenominational nonprofit survives solely on the donations of people and local churches. Some individuals sign up for monthly contributions.

The woman who started The Lord Is My Help, Kay Woods, is still the director. She's also known in the community for her years as the director of the St. John's Episcopal pre-school program.

About the volunteers

The event promises to be family fun with a cornhole tournament, silent auction with area artists and a raffle. Tickets are $15 in advance, and $20 at the door or $15 with a 10-can food donation.

The event has always been on a Sunday. When it started, three years ago, downtown Ocean Springs was closed on Sunday. Now it's not, but Sullivan keeps his commitment and sets aside a Sunday for Feed the Need.

His employees donate their time.

Get tickets from any committee member, the Grocery, The Greenhouse on Porter, Eat Drink Love Catering, Hillyer House, The Office, Paddles Up or Kwitzky's. They also will be available at Triple Threat Academy in Biloxi and PrescritpFit Medical Nutrition Therapy in Gulfport.

The all-star committee: Kait Sukiennik and Jessie Zenor, Greenhouse on Porter; Kelly Lane, real estate agent; Kendall Stevens, Wild Lilly Landscaping; Chase Sekul, Sekul's Pool Service; Ali Leggett, biologist at GCRL, Sara and Wade Guice, Guice Woodworks; Sarah Reese, attorney; Ceci Snyder, Bay Area Food Bank; Rachel Evans, manager Government Street Grocery; Ben McKenzie, engineer; Megan Trochesset and Lauren Turner, teachers; Susannah Snyder, manager of Hillyer House; Corey Christy, marketing director at WAMA; Seth and Lauren Braden, Eat Drink Love Catering; Megan Broussard, office manager Dr. Stan Owens; Linda Pasvantis, nurse; Holly and Ron Horn, Southern Curio; Jeff Glenny, Mobile Marine; Amber and Johnny Mansholt, Champion Print and Design; Genine Dalgo, graphic artist and Amanda Sulcer, graphics out of New Orleans.

"I was blown away by how many hours we've put in on this," LeBleu said. For all three Feed the Need benefits, LeBleu alone has logged 450 hours. She knows because they were asked to calculate their hours when someone needed numbers to apply for a charity grant.