Are you looking for a way to help others in need? Then Southwest Mississippi Christian Outreach Ministries (COM) needs you! At a recent meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Pike County, members heard how COM serves our community in a number of ways, from running a thrift store and food pantry to assisting home fire victims and providing job training to area women.
Inside the thrift store.
The thrift store, located in Pike Center Mart along with the rest of the outreach ministries’ facilities, may well be the neatest, best-organized collection of thrift items you’ll find anywhere! The staff at COM will gladly receive your gently used items to add to the store. If either you or someone you know is moving, and would like to lighten your load, consider donating furniture, appliances, dishes, cookware, bedding, or towels, along with clothing!
COM Director Jean Spring related to the club that the food pantry is serving more and more elderly people as the cost of living increases. Food donations are always needed, whether it’s frozen deer or hamburger meat or canned foods or cereal. Spring suggests donations of canned soft goods, such as stews, tuna, and fruit that are easy on the teeth of elderly clients. Monetary donations are also always welcome!
The food pantry.
The word ministries in the organization’s name has real meaning. The entire mission is a Christ-centered one. The group offers free Bibles and Christian literature to anyone who visits their operation. They also pray with clients and offer the plan of salvation to them. The staff at COM also offers assistance (by appointment) to those who need help with paying for medications and utilities, along with food and clothing. Client interviews are conducted first to determine the individual’s needs. “We do not assist people just because they come in and want their light bill paid for them; that’s not the way we operate,” Spring said. In some extreme emergency situations clearly beyond an individual’s control, the mission will help out in unplanned ways. “If God says do it, we just do it” Spring noted.
The mission is also active in a nursing home ministry, providing various items needed by patients who have no family that can or will assist them with their personal needs. “We currently have fifty-seven nursing home residents just in Pike and Amite County that we are serving. Some of these residents do have family, but they just choose not to go by and check on them,” Spring said. One of Spring’s favorite services to the nursing home residents is the “general store” set up at the nursing home, where patients are given Monopoly money to “purchase” groceries and other items. “You haven’t lived until you see about 25 wheelchairs lined up with their Monopoly money waving, ready to go shopping!”
Another unfilled need many people probably are not aware exists in this area is that of a homeless shelter. “On three occasions, I have walked out to our back loading dock area to find that someone had made a bed there. They had stuck boxes around them to keep the wind off,” Spring recalled. “It happens in big cities, but it shouldn’t happen here in McComb, Mississippi.” The mission would like to open a homeless shelter, and is looking for the right building. If you or someone you know has the means and desire to donate a house that can be used for a shelter, Mrs. Spring would love to hear from you!
In addition to the above-mentioned services, COM aids the public by providing disaster relief to both victims and emergency workers, and providing motel accommodations during emergency situations.
Next on the agenda at the Kiwanis Club meeting were representatives of the Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC), a women’s training service operating under the umbrella of COM. Edith Parkman is the CWJC site coordinator, and Shari Mancuso is her assistant. Established in 1994 by the Southern Baptist WMU (Women’s Missionary Union), the job corps takes a “Christ-centered approach to preparing women for whatever comes to them in life,” Parkman said. The service is greatly needed today because so many women today are heads of households. The CWJC combats the “welfare mentality that is passed down from generation to generation. It’s time for that to stop,” asserted Parkman.
The CWJC is composed solely of Christian women helping women. “Women are able to understand other women, listen, and feel what a women feels” in a way that men cannot, Parkman noted. There are three main goals of the CWJC: 1. to bring the women into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (prospective participants must agree to attend Bible study classes to qualify for the program), 2. to provide job skills, and 3. to increase self-esteem (“If you don’t feel good about yourself, then you will not be able to pass down to your children the self-esteem they need, also,” Parkman said.) Some of the job and life skills participants learn in the classroom are computer proficiency, anger management, nutrition, goal setting, budgeting, resume writing, job interviewing, and dressing for success. Regarding nutrition education, Parkman observed, “It’s one thing to go to COM and get groceries, but if you don’t know how to come back and properly prepare the meal—if you come back and grease it up with fatback—you’re still in trouble!”
Every CWJC participant is required to have a mentor who has agreed to spend at least one hour per week for about a year assisting the client—working on goals, both celebrating victories and working through challenges. “The mentor is there for support, not to solve all the client’s problems for them, but to help them solve their own problems,” Parkman said.
The CWJC is actively looking for women mentors, women volunteers who can teach any of the above-mentioned classes (after proper training), and business professionals who are willing to give the “graduating” participants a chance in the workplace. In addition, if you know of a woman who would benefit as a participant in the program, you can contact Parkman or Mancuso at COM.
Southwest Mississippi Christian Outreach Ministries is located in Pike Center Mart, 1200 LaSalle Street, Building #1. Phone: 601-250-0177. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Mailing address for monetary donations: P.O. Box 2278, McComb, MS 39649. (SWMSCOM is a 501(c)3 tax-deductible organization.) [The website address is www.swmsoutreach.org. We have a PayPal account that enables us to receive donations online. Of particular need at this time is financial assistance for our planned domestic violence shelter. The thrift store is open 9 AM until 5 PM, Monday through Saturday. For other needs, please call for scheduling.