Manna is finding and meeting needs throughout our community

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 7, 2014


HELPING HANDS: Volunteers work at Manna Ministries to complete bags of food for those who need assistance. This is just one of the many ways that Manna helps in the community.

HELPING HANDS: Volunteers work at Manna Ministries to complete bags of food for those who need assistance. This is just one of the many ways that Manna helps in the community.                                                                               Jodi Marze | Picayune Item

Manna Ministries Executive Director Jaime Martin has been at the organization’s helm since its establishment back in 1999.

What began as a food pantry for local residents in need is now an umbrella organization for so much more.

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Manna Ministries’ ability to identify the needs in the county and provide for those needs has helped the organization expand.

“We look at our community, identify needs, then go about meeting them,” Martin said. “When my father was the pastor of Resurrection Life, a lot of elderly ladies would come to him and let him know of their needs for food assistance.”

Today, offices, which are open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., are volunteer run. Martin said some of the volunteers have been here since 1999.

In addition to food and clothing assistance, Manna also offers a medical clinic, which began in March of 2005, Martin recalls it was just prior to Hurricane Katrina.

“I could not believe it,” Martin said. “We went from just starting our clinic to taking over Sunday school rooms from our church for patients. We had volunteer physicians and nurses from all over the country taking care of patients.”

Manna played a big part of Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac relief efforts and also accepted the city of Picayune’s request to be a distribution point for the community.

Martin said they did long term recovery with people affected by the hurricanes through case management with the goal of making sure people had secure, safe, sustainable dwelling as well as their physical needs being met.

“We helped them with appliances, clothing and mattresses,” Martin said.

Up until now, Manna served as a storm shelter during dangerous weather, but with the new FEMA storm shelters in place, they feel that they can move on to other concerns.

“It is all about relationships,” Martin said. “It is about us being able to take care of our community. We deliver meals and make sure that needs are met with shut-ins, including pets they may have.”

Martin said living in a generous community makes a difference. Manna is donation and non-government grant funded.

“For the most part people in a community want to help, but you have to start by plugging them into what best fits them,” she said. “Many of our volunteers that you see working today have been here from the opening of this new facility in 2008.”

Program offerings have changed over time to reflect community need. A recent homeowner retention program prevented 38 homes from being foreclosed on, Martin said.

Today, their focus is on health and education because Mississippi typically ranks low in those areas.

“I am tired of our state being first in areas it should be last in and last in areas it should be first in,” Martin said. “As we look around in the community and see what needs are and we put focus where we can make the biggest impact.”

Right now Manna Ministries is targeting first through third graders at Nicholson with an after-school program called Head and Heart.

“Students are diagnosed with needs, then a prescriptive plan is put into place. As of this time, all students are up to reading levels for their current grades.”

The newest health program is called Heart 2 Heart.

Martin said that as a faith based organization, they believe that the Lord has purpose for every person who is born, and to reach that potential they should be physically healthy.

“You can’t fulfill your purpose if your physical body is torn down from neglect,” she said. “If you are unable to fulfill your purpose there is a gap.”

The program is funded through an AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation grant to provide education for cardiovascular diseases.

Recently Manna conducted a cardiovascular screening event as an introduction to the program. Participants were given the opportunity to join Manna’s continuing education program on cardiovascular disease, which will include dietary, health assessment and physical activity components.

“This program is open to everyone in the community, whether they are insured or not,” Martin said.

In the comprehensive education and wellness model, participants will be given tools to address high blood pressure,hypertension, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and smoking, Martin said.

“I have been a nurse for 32 years and I have found across the population, regardless of health insurance status, that people can’t take care of themselves.

“This program is an opportunity to make a change through education and encouragement. Small steps lead to big progress over time.”

Heart 2 Heart is open to anyone who is interested and will debut on May 19, at 6 p.m., in the Manna Ministries shelter. No registration is needed.

For more information on Manna Ministries, visit: on the Injternet.