Brother’s Keeper Ministry helps feed the flock in Poplarville

Published 9:59 am Monday, September 26, 2016

Serving God by serving others is a tenet of many faiths, and for about 425 families a month in Poplarville, that service is delivered in plastic grocery bags containing peanut butter, soup, rice and beans.

Brother’s Keepers Ministries in Poplarville has been serving people in need for 15 years by providing a means to stretch their limited budgets for food.

“If they get food stamps, they’re eligible here,” says Wayne Willoughby, president of the organization.

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While he talks, Willoughby filled carts with bags of groceries he pulls from a maze of shelves. Cans of soup, cans of chili, jars of peanut butter and jelly, it all gets sacked up. Then he rolls the car to what he calls “lagniappe” area, where there might be boxes of cake mix or fresh peppers, depending what’s come through the doors. On a nearby shelf sit cans of nutritional drinks like Ensure and Glucerna that Brother’s Keeper offers to elderly clients.

Then it’s down the aisle to the cereals, where boxes of grits and oatmeal elbow up to a supply of baby formula reserved for infants.

Much of the food is donated by a large retailer in Picayune. Twice a week, Brother’s Keeper volunteers drive south on Interstate 59 and fill the organization’s truck with pantry stapleswayne1.

Willoughby, a rawboned Pearl River County native of 75, once worked the night shift at Wal-Mart and was a code inspector for boilers, adds some produce to his cart. It could be avocados, lettuce, tomatoes or dried fruit. He’s volunteered at Brother’s Keeper for eight years.

This afternoon, it’s kind of slow at the pantry at 208 N. Main St. in Poplarville. Willoughby talks about what the ministry needs.

Basically, he says, it’s money. The ministry is able to buy meat for 20 cents a pound (this week it’s racks of ribs). Last Thanksgiving Brother’s Keeper spent $5,000 on turkeys, and ran out, having to substitute hams for some latecomers, Willoughby says.

About five years ago, the ministry bought the Main Street location and moved from rented quarters. It now owns a box truck for gathering up the donated and purchased food and hauling it to Poplarville.

Even with an all-volunteer staff, the power needs to stay on to keep the coolers and freezers running, and that costs $700 to $800 a month.

“It’s a struggle sometimes,” he says. “What we really need is someone who knows how to write grants. We haven’t had one in a year.”

Last week, Brother’s Keeper held a benefit fish fry, something it does twice a year.

It will benefit from the “Rockin’ the Pines” live music festival Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Blue Heron Barn at 377 Sam Smith Road in Poplarville. Admission is $10 per person.

And on Saturday, Nov. 12, the ministry will benefit from the third annual Poplarville Chili Cook-Off.

So far in September, Brother’s Keeper has given one brimming cart each to 228 households. “It dropped off during the summer, but since school started back last month it’s been busy,” he says.

The charity is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m., and on Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.

In a cooler in the loading area, Willoughby shows a visitor a box of cabbages left over from the Friday night fish fry. They’ll go somewhere else, perhaps to Teen Challenge or another charity, Willoughby says. Whenever Brother’s Keeper winds up with too much, it looks for some place that has too little.

Even most of the cardboard shipping boxes that held the donated food get crushed and given to Ramey’s Marketplace in Poplarville, where they’re shipped off to be recycled, he says. The roomy, easy-to-carry banana boxes, though, they’re stacked outside, free to people who might be packing up to move.

“I’m not greedy,” Willoughby says. “I wasn’t raised rich. I was raised to give. That’s what people have got to start doing again.”