Food ministry grows with demands


Plant a seed and watch it grow.

That sums up the work of the volunteers of the Open Arms feeding mission this past year.

Open Arms started in 2012. Once a month, volunteers prepared a hot meal for whoever wanted it. And many came.

Toward the end of 2015, they increased it to two hot meals a month. They were gifted with a building they could use as their own. They were preparing around 350 meals each time.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, it was no longer safe to have a group of people together for a sit-down meal. So Open Arms began giving out food bags and the number of people they have reached since has multiplied.

“Since the end of April, we have been giving an emergency food distribution every second and fourth Tuesday of the month,” said co-chairman John Bowen. 

“People drive up, and we give them a bag of food with 12 to 14 items in it. We are at 239 Railroad Avenue. Take a right at Old Mexico and then take right before you cross the railroad track. We average around 350 bags each distribution.”

The distribution begins at 3:20 p.m. and lasts until 5:15 p.m. When daylight saving time starts, it goes back to 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.

But that is not all they do. Open Arms has become involved in other feeding programs. The Philadelphia and Neshoba Central elementary schools have had food closets for their students in the past.

 “I don’t know when they started it,” Bowen said. “We are all about feeding families and children. We wanted to get involved and did this past fall. We are providing the food. They come to us or we bring it to them. They make up a menu, and we see what they can find to provide it. It is something the children can take home. It is easy to prepare for the family.”

Need is the only requirement. Open Arms gives 39 bags to the clients of an adult day care.

“They live over the county,” Bowen said. “The daycare picks up the bags. When they take their clients back to their homes, they take a bag with them. That is a big blessing to them.”

Open Arms hears from churches that are aware of needs.

“We have one church that comes and takes a few bags out into the homes in the county,” Bowen said. “That’s what we want. If you know of someone, call and say I have eight, however many, that I can get these bags to them because they need them.”

And as the need for food has grown, so have the number of volunteers who come in and help bag the food. Members from churches such as First Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist, Jerusalem Church, Bethsaida Baptist, and civic organizations such as the Rotary Club, the Sertoma Club, the Shriners, the Masonic Lodge and Leadership Neshoba have given their time to make this happen.

The food distribution initially started with a very generous donation. And donations have continued to come in. If you are interested in giving, the address is: Open Arms, 239 Railroad Avenue, Philadelphia, MS, 39350.

So, Open Arms changed from preparing meals to distributing food because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. When the day comes that COVID-19 is not the threat it is now, what will the ministry do?

“We will make that decision when the time comes,” said co-chair Kaye Rowell. “We don’t know what we are going to do. A year ago, at this time, we didn’t think we would be giving out emergency food bags either. We will make the decision when the time comes.

“We are reaching a lot of folks this way but before we were reaching a lot of folks the other way. I think we are able to reach more this way and they are able to take home several meals instead of having a hot meal,” Rowell said.

For more information about Open Arms, email open arms39350@gmail or call 601-663-8500.

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