February of 1997, three of us gathered on the deck of a shed I was temporarily living in, to talk about our futures. My shed was located in a poverty area of East Gulfport. One of the ladies, JoAnn Kenndy was a chef, Dr. Gail Cotton was a grants-writer for universities, and I was an eager teacher. The three of us wanted to offer loving, open, meaningful gatherings for people who lived in this geographic area. I wanted it to be a church which focused more on the simple faith of Jesus rather than a faith about Jesus. We talked about using this shed as a chapel where we would provide a cooked breakfast, a 30 minute worship service, and a fellowship of giving to local people. We talked about this becoming a reality. Of course, we tried to think of a name for this ever-growing concept and one night Gail said, “JoAnn wants to nourish people’s body and you, Jane, want to nourish their souls, so why don’t we call it The Nourishing Place. We did. The idea became a reality.
We opened our first worship service with nine people. Nine people who felt welcomed and loved. We also invited the young men from the Youth Court who were being mentored by my husband Max Peck. Of course, these young men were also in need of being nourished...body and soul. Our nine congregants gradually rose to 20. Austin Lindsey offered to help JoAnn cook the expanded breakfast...biscuits, gravy, sausages, scrambled eggs, grits, coffee and juice. Serving began to be a problem in our cramped shed so the three of us built a large deck on the side of the church, closed it in, and that too became part of our worship and kitchen. At that same time, we began to work with the Gulfport School District to tutor children who were lagging behind in reading and math. After several years, we submitted a grant to the United Way of South Mississippi to expand the tutoring to five elementary schools in Gulfport. Through these combined efforts several thousand elementary students have moved up to their appropriate grades instead of being held back. That program is still in current operation...the school district, the United Way, and the Nourishing Place join together to meet a critical community and educational need.
More and more people began to come to worship with us on Sundays. I did not want to move. But we needed more room. Max found a dilapidated church not far from our shed and through a miraculous gift of an unexpected tax refund, and offered help from Tom Brosig and the Grand Casino’s staff, we purchased and rebuilt the old church. In October of 2003 we moved in. The church blossomed because we were service oriented. We had a clothes and food give away program on the back porch of this church. Friends donated items throughout the week as others came to take for their families what was needed. Our congregation continued to grow and in 2017-2018 we purchased lots on the same street, cleared the properties, and built a new sanctuary and fellowship hall. With special help from the Drew Allen Family and the Eileen and Earl Whittemores we had plenty to build a beautiful sanctuary, large kitchen and a multi-purpose fellowship hall. Bill Brazell hand-built the pulpit and the altar furniture. Lance Oustalet made it possible for us to furnish the Fellowship Hall and purchase antique pews for the sanctuary. He and friends rented a trailer, picked up the pews, and delivered them to the new sanctuary. David Delk purchased a new piano for us and Helen Evans, one of our pianists, purchased hymnals for us. It also took the generosity of many congregants to complete the building and the furnishings. It was truly a church-wide effort.
Just recently, our old church has become available to us again. We have opened a greatly expanded give-away program in this facility and it is aptly name The Giving Place. It is open three days a week, and is staffed. The circle of love continues...people come and donate others come and have some needs met.
This coming February of 2022 The Nourishing Place will be 25 years old! What a joy it has been to serve as Pastor for these many years. All we do in and through The Nourishing Place we do because God asks us to act according to his teachings. If you’ve ever doubted the wisdom and joy that come from being a servant to our Gracious God, think again. There is no greater joy, no more meaningful way to live, no more adventuresome existence, no better peaceful sleep than having the holy one, Jesus, as your guide, and the Master Creator as your God. It just doesn’t get any better.
Copyright © 2021 The Nourishing Place - The Education Support Organization Inc. Tax ID # 72-1246735 All Rights Reserved.