Mama Tina’s Mission House was providing more than meals on Christmas Day.
“Besides food, we’re going to be delivering the word of God, ministering the people and delivering hope,” Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, founder and executive director of The Ordinary People Society, said Wednesday.
“We’re delivering hope to a people that don’t see hope,” he said. “We’re delivering hope to a people that feel like their life is over.”
TOPS has been passing out food and carrying out its mission of helping the less fortunate for more than a decade. It sponsors the mission house as part of its three-part ministry: feeding the homeless, mentoring and monitoring youth and helping people get their lives back together through the Prodigal Child Project.
But Glasgow said TOPS couldn’t do its job without help and sponsors.
“It’s really a collaboration of efforts from everybody,” Glasgow said. Volunteers, organizations like Wiregrass Area United Way Food Bank and Wiregrass United Way 2-1-1, and events like “Turkeys from Heaven” and the Annual Community Christmas Luncheon help deliver assistance to the needy.
Glasgow said donations helped provide more than 300 kids with gifts on Christmas Eve. Some of their families had lost everything in fires, and “some people’s houses had gotten broken into and they took all their kids’ toys,” he said.
“This year has been a struggle on a lot of different people, and there was some concern that everybody wasn’t going to get the proper sponsorship or contributions of donations that they needed, including us,” Glasgow said. “We just thank God for all the people that contribute.”
The mission house feeds about 200 people a day. Glasgow said a lot of groups feed people on Thanksgiving and Christmas, “but no one really thinks about the other 363 days of the year.”
The Prodigal Child Project helps people who are coming out of prison, homeless, have been on drugs or have faced other problems restore their lives. That leads to harm reduction.
“The reason we call it harm reduction is because it stops them from committing harm to themselves, and it stops them from committing harm to others because then when they eat they don’t steal,” Glasgow said. “When they don’t steal they don’t break into people’s houses. When they don’t break into people’s houses, we have public safety.”
Anne Reynolds knows the situation from both sides.
“Before I came here I was on drugs for 18 years, and through this ministry I got clean,” she said. She has been with the ministry for eight years, and said it gave her a sense of purpose.
“It’s not so much of being proud, but I feel good about myself now whereas one time I wouldn’t have given a club nickel for myself, really,” she said.
Being around people every day offers her the chance to help others and share her story.
“Maybe if they hear what I have to say of what I’ve been through, it will keep them from having to go through some of the same stuff. That’s basically what it’s about,” Reynolds said.
Part of her job is writing letters to prisoners. She said a lot of people who go to prison are disowned by their families and they have no one to communicate with.
She’s never been in prison, but has been in county jail. “I know how it feels to be locked away and not having any kind of contact from the outside world,” she said.
Joi Williams is from Miami where she worked with a home for domestic violence. She is still partnering with the home, but now works assisting Glasgow’s mother, Tina, at Mama Tina’s Mission House.
She likes the work because it helps her give back to the community. “I just enjoy doing it because I’m helping somebody else that can’t do better,” Williams said.
“I like to have my kids with me to show them what the real reason for the season is, and to let them know that there’s a lot of people that’s in difficult situations that you would never know,” she said.
The only bad part is “when we run out of food,” she said. “Somebody else comes and they can’t get none, so we make up something.”
Jerry Clark worked with the ministry for about a year two or three years ago, and still helps when he can.
“I can’t say enough about Reverend Glasgow and Mama Tina, because they’re on the front line trying to help people,” Clark said.
“My thrill is helping them to help people, because it takes a village to raise a kid, and a sense that there’s not enough of us to do this,” he said. “If we can get everybody to do what we’re doing right now, it would solve a lot of problems.”
Clark said he was state treasurer for the NAACP for about five years. “I saw a lot of it then, but it wasn’t to this degree, helping people like these people are helping people,” he said. “And there are just so many out there, and the kids are the ones I worry about the most, because they are supposed to be our future. It’s just so much stuff that they’re going through in their lives.”
The 61-year-old Clark said things were different when he was growing up.
“The kids today, family life is really gone,” he said. “Kids can’t go home and talk to their parents. A bunch of the time they’re either not there or they’re working, and that’s the sad part.”
He said the older generation includes people who can’t take care of themselves, and some of them eat cat food to survive.
“It’s sad that in this day and age that people have to result to doing stuff like that,” he said. The United States is the greatest country in the world, he said. “We should take care of our own, and then we can take care of everybody else.”
TOPS is always looking for volunteers. Clark said helping others is something he wants to do.
“I wouldn’t trade anything for it,” he said. “I love this.”