Wesley House Community Center Executive Director Ginger Grissom posed a thought-provoking question at the start of her presentation at the November meeting of the Long Creek Community Club.
“What if there was no Wesley House Community Center?” Grissom asked at the club's Nov. 11, 2013 meeting.
More than 65,000 bags of food would not have been handed out last year, along with nearly 8,000 medications and utilities paid for, and more than 1,200 family counseling and advocacy sessions provided, the Wesley House director answered.
"And, just imagine the number of people who have been helped by Wesley House over the years – 109 years to be exact," she added.
Wesley House Community Center was founded in 1904, when Mrs. Elizabeth Cochran and Mrs. J.R. Whittaker, plus several ladies from Central Methodist Church in Meridian felt a calling to “minister to the least of these.” They began by teaching the wives of the cotton mill workers to sew and their children to read Bible stories.
The Wesley House story continues to thrive today, helping victims of crime, abuse and poverty get on their own two feet and find a new normal, Grissom said.
Times have changed since 1904, and so have needs over the years.
“We chase the need,” Grissom said. "Today, one of the biggest, scariest, and ugliest needs is to help those who have been trafficked."
Human trafficking occurs when a person is bought, "used" for a couple of weeks, then sold to someone else in another state or country to continue the atrocity. Grissom said drugs are involved to keep the victim "in use," and when the victim is near death their organs are sold on the black market.
“The victims are getting younger and younger,” she said.
Because of this, Wesley House is adding a seventh agency under its roof for children and youth.
Currently, six agencies provide an array of services through prayerful networking with individuals and businesses in town to best serve those in need. They are: Education; Health Care; Community; Victim Services; Emergency Christian Relief; and Correctional
Throughout its history, Wesley House has provided people with a "hand up" as opposed to a "hand out," and continues to offer case work and life tools in order to help break the cycle of poverty and abuse so those who participate can soon be able to help others.
But this requires assistance from the community.
"Four out of every five dollars donated to Wesley goes directly to the programs ... to the people who are in need," Grissom said. With the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons upon us, the need for food and toys is imminent."
The new Wesley Warrior Campaign kicked off Nov. 22 for Thanksgiving. Then. Christmas preparations will be in full force.
"Please bring your donations of food and toys soon for those with legitimate needs," Grissom said.
For more information on services Wesley House provides, call (601) 485-4736. Tours of the facility are offered by appointment. Wesley House is located at 1520 Eighth Ave.
Long Creek Community Development Club is located at 4892 Zero Road. The club's next meeting will be a Christmas potluck supper beginning at 6 p.m. on Dec. 9.
• Submitted by Jill R. Walsh.