Hope and help available for those who need it
By Toni Miles
Life is a struggle, but perhaps more so now, as gas prices and food costs hit an all-time high.
“There are people hanging on by a thread right now,” says Glenda Hull, as she multi-tasks, sorting and distributing food and other essentials to homeless and needy people in the area at Open Table Ministry’s recent monthly give-away.
“We don’t just feed the homeless,” Hull said. “We serve those who may have shelter, an apartment, but they’re just having a hard time making ends meet. Maybe somebody lost their job a month ago, or maybe they just need a meal. Maybe they haven’t gotten a pair of socks in God knows how long. Anybody is welcome. It may not seem like much, but you can see the need, the suffering through the smiles,” Hull said.
Needs Glenda, her husband Terry Hull, and their church, First United Methodist in Long Beach, feel called to fill - something they’ve been doing since 2015.
“We happened [into this] by divine serendipity,” Hull said. “We had all this food prepared for an event that fell through, so instead we decided to try to find some homeless camps. When we did, we saw the need, and so we started Open Table Ministry. We started out feeding ten or fifteen people, and we ended up serving one hundred to one hundred twenty-five people every month.
“We want to show the love of God, the love of Jesus. We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and ease some suffering,” Hull said.
According to Patter Johnson, they’re doing just that.
“I’ve been coming out here for about four years,” Johnson said. “I once had my own dog, my own business, was about to start a second business…but then I had a nervous breakdown. I ended up on the street with my duffel bag. I struggled and struggled, but now I’ve been off the streets for two years.”
Johnson said years ago she volunteered with other non-profits who help the homeless and needy in the area. She never thought she’d be on the receiving end one day.
“It was hard, but I’m off the streets now,” Johnson says as her voice cracks and tears well up in her eyes. But now, things are looking up, and she credits the Hulls and all those associated with Open Table ministry with this new, exciting chapter in her life, reflected by the gleam in her eyes as she holds her young son, thankful they have an apartment now. She’s even rebooting old dreams.
“You should have seen her [Johnson] five years ago,” Hull said. “She looks so much better. She’s really trying hard. She’s come a long way.”
“Like they say, always walk by faith,” Johnson said. “God is what got me through this. She [Glenda Hull and Open Table Ministry] helped get me through this. Every time Ms. Glenda saw me, I was pregnant, and she helped me, gave me a blanket, the things I needed.”
And according to Hull, a little divine intervention goes a long way.
“Basically, God has blessed this ministry,” she said. “We don’t advertise for donations. It just comes in to the church office. We have an account at the church, so donations can be made through First United Methodist Church in Long Beach. We use these donations to buy food, supplies and other things.”
“We are all really, truly created equal, but we are not treated equal. Social injustice has just slayed the human race. I’ve had far more opportunities in my lifetime than the people here today, and that hurts me. It hurts me to know they didn’t have the same opportunities,” Hull said.
But everybody has the same opportunity to give, and members of other cities, faiths, churches and denominations, all pitch in to help, whether it’s manning the monthly donations site at the 19th Street Park in Gulfport, or collecting food, clothing and other needs at local churches for distribution.
Hull says year-round, there is a constant need for food, socks and underwear, men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, as well as personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and even Q-tips and clothes pins.
“It’s these ‘little things’ we love to provide for them that people often don’t think about,” Hull said. “They like clothes pins. They use them to hang their clothes up on the branches.”
Open Table Ministry has an open-door policy – anyone in need is welcome to attend their monthly give-away, which takes place the second Saturday of each month at the 19th Street Park in Gulfport, and anyone can give.
Donations can be made at and through First United Methodist Church in Long Beach by calling 228-863-9619.