Pay It Forward Friday: Team Kids of FBCOS Host Valentine Luncheon for Single Seniors

The children of Team Kids at First Baptist Church in Ocean Springs hosted a Valentine Luncheon for Single Seniors at the church last Sunday. Team Kids, guests, and other volunteers gathered in the church’s activities building, where the tables were adorned with festive Valentine decor. The children then served their guests a delicious meal and presented them with gifts and handmade Valentine cards. The menu included a choice of lasagna or shrimp casserole, garlic bread, salad, strawberry cheesecake, and tea.

“The children are learning to share God’s love and serve others, and they are experiencing the joy that comes from that service. We’ve had this event for several years now, and it is always looked forward to and enjoyed by our seniors as well as the children,” said Cindy Hagler, longtime Team Kids leader. Other leaders include Debbie Trenchard, Susie Cagle, Jane Ellison, and Theary Dodson.

The teachers of these children did a super job in recognizing the seniors of our church. The food was delicious and letting the children serve us was an extra special treat! -Liz Folsom, luncheon guest

Team Kids meets every Wednesday night from 6:15 – 7:00 p.m. at FBCOS where they have Bible study, learn about missionaries around the world, and participate in various mission projects.

Go Team Kids!

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Pay It Forward Friday: Shellie Carter Helping Homeless Teens on the Coast

1505924577544 Pay It Forward Friday: Shellie Carter Helping Homeless Teens on the Coast

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Many kids look forward to their 18th birthday, but for kids in foster care their 18th birthday is often the day they become homeless. That is when they “age out” of the foster care system, and unless they have plans to go to college or have someone pick them up and take care of them many of these young adults are left with nowhere to go and end up in the streets. A new program through the Community Care Network, Breakthrough, aims to to rescue these homeless kids that are on the streets and give them the housing and necessities they need to help get them on their feet. 

The Community Care Network is a faith-based, non-profit organization located in Ocean Springs seeking to empower their clients and minister to their physical, emotional, and spiritual need, enabling them to move from addiction, homelessness, and/or incarceration to a stable and independent life. The network is made up of different branches, including a long-term transitional home-Sue’s Home. Sue’s Home helps women and children who have either been displaced by incarceration or rehab and are seeking to get their life’s back on track, so they may unify their family again.

The Breakthrough program began in South Mississippi in July and rescues these 18-to 24-year olds who have aged out of the foster care system and have no job or hopes of going to college, said Shellie Carter, director of the program for the Community Care Network. “Many of these kids have bounced around in foster homes or may come from an abusive home and turn to alcohol and drugs to cope”, she said. 

Carter mentions how she can understand and relate to how uncertain and scared these kids are. “I was a child of an addict”, she said, and at age 6 she and her sister were taken from her mother and placed in a foster care in Harrison County. “I’ve been in your shoes”, she tells the kids. 

The program was founded after receiving the Continuum of Care (COC) Grant through Open Doors Homeless Coalition, which is a coalition for the homeless in Gulfport. “When I met Diane Easley, (Founder and Executive Director of Community Care Network), I thought ‘wow what a blessing it would be to work with the community after experiencing what I have as a child in the foster care system and having addiction touch my life'”, said Carter. 

This is her 9th year working with non-profits and second year with the Community Care Network. At 47, she now believes life has brought her to where she needs to be to put her own past to rest and to take those late-night phone calls from kids in Breakthrough who need help or just someone to listen to their concerns.

Homelessness is a challenge in our area 

The homeless population in Ocean Springs has become a  continuous issue in the city. A 2015 count showed a 300 percent increase in homelessness among ages 18 to 24 in the six southern counties, most of them on the Coast, Carter said. In every other age category the numbers went down, she said. The current count of young people living outside in South Mississippi is 54. “I have people call me daily to try and get into the program and on average about 3 people per week”, said Carter. “We’re funded out through the end of the year and at our max capacity with our budget”, she said. “We don’t have any more room- the problem is that big.” There are currently 11 residents enrolled in the program. 

“There’s a lot of barriers that go into homeless youth. If they’re 18 there’s a lot of apartment complexes who won’t accept an 18 year old signing a lease”, she said. “Another issue is employment and transportation that we’ve come across while trying to help the homeless youth.” 

How it works

The homeless youth first go through a centralized intake through Open Doors Coalition and get all of the information to identify their level of need. “A score of one would be the least amount of need and if they score from five to ten they are really desperate”, she said. 

After determining their need, the next step includes finding an apartment so the young person has a warm, safe place to live. The program provides them with everything from furniture and cooking supplies and even food. “There’s a lot to getting a young person housed who has nothing,” Carter said.

Breakthrough also assigns a case manager who provides help learning how to apply for food stamps, search for jobs and even enrolling them in financial counseling. “It’s very overwhelming to 19-year-olds,” Carter said, since many of them don’t know how to cook or parent and “freeze” when asked to fill out job applications.

The program has had many success stories ike a young woman in Gulfport who was homeless and now has apartment and a high school diploma and plans to start junior college this spring. 

“It can happen to anyone”, says Carter. “So if we can all take our shoes off and walk in someone else’s for a day we can all get that perspective and relate in someway”, she added. “I’m sure at some point in life, addiction has touched someone you know or someone in your family and that’s where our human-ness comes in our ability to touch and reach out to these people and give a hand up, not a hand down”, said Carter. 

How you can help

The program is always in need of supplies for the program such as personal hygiene items, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant. Any leftovers are sent back out into the homeless community. “We make care packages and take them back out into the streets to pass out” said Carter.

For more information on the Breakthrough program or Community Care Network, visit their website at

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Pay it Forward Friday: Greg Bufkin

thank6 Pay it Forward Friday: Greg Bufkin

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In March of 2016, Greg Bufkin checked himself into the Home of Grace, a faith-based drug treatment center, for three months after a near-death experience from a drug overdose. Bufkin best describes himself to this day as a recovering addict. For many years he was addicted to pain killers after being prescribed them for a migraine under a doctor’s care. 

Through the duration of his stay, Greg and his wife noticed a gap with the patient’s addiction and their family members. “If you don’t’ treat the family at the same time and the same way you’re helping the addicts, then you’re missing a big portion of addiction”, says Bufkin. This discovery led Bufkin and his wife to start El Roi Ministries. El Roi (pronounced ‘row-eye’) aims to bridge that gap by building a network of churches, counselors, companies, charities and skilled individuals to help these families. 

“When I was in rehab, I lost my salary and things were happening with my family and our house that needed to be paid for”, says Bufkin. “Life goes on while you’re in rehab and most of these addicts’ family members don’t have the same support system”, he said.

El Roi’s mission is to first help the physical needs of these families and secondly educate them. Bufkin stressed how the family’s adaptation to the addict’s release from these programs is just as important as the addict’s. “If what the family is doing before the addict goes into rehab isn’t changed when they come out, why should you expect the result to be that much different?”, says Bufkin. “And how do they know what to do differently unless you educate them”, added Bufkin. 

El Roi isn’t just Home of Grace specific. They work with many other rehab organizations, churches, and facilitations. Recently, the El Roi ministry team volunteered to feed the people at Home of Grace by providing a Thanksgiving meal. They had 30 volunteers from Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, come together to spend Thanksgiving with the men at The Home of Grace in Vancleave, MS. “Some of our volunteers were former clients at The Home of Grace”, Bufkin said. “Some of the volunteers had loved ones who were previously clients, some were people who just wanted to spend Thanksgiving doing something for somebody else rather than doing the same old family gathering”, he said. 

Bufkin says it’s all about loving these people and letting them know they are there for them and their families before, during and after their rehabilitation. “If the family falls apart while the addict is in rehab, then the odds of the addict first finishing the program is slim; and even if they do then they won’t be sober long if the family is not stable enough”, Bufkin said. El Roi’s goal is to have agreements with these organizations and individuals to offer services for free or reduced rates.

Bufkin says he sees El Roi expanding to more churches and organizations over the next few years. Within the last year, they’ve expanded by reaching out to other organizations they had originally not intended to work with, including Steps Coalition. “My goal is to have people to follow up with these rehab/AA programs even if it may take them to a different facility, but with the core focus being on the family”, he said. 

Greg is also in the midst of writing an informational booklet detailing what addiction is and the best way to combat it with your family. “I’d like to call it something like ‘Addiction for Dummies'”, Bufkin jokingly added. “I just want these families to understand why they behave like they do, so they are coming home to an understanding and educated environment after treatment”, said Bufkin. 

Bufkin also encourages people who would like to volunteer for the El Rio ministry to message their Facebook page. “We can always use folks to help make phone calls, companies and people to offer free or reduced services for families of addicts in recovery who are in need”, said Bufkin. “Even if it’s five minutes or a few hours, we’ll find somewhere you can help out”, he said. 



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Pay it Forward Friday: Mary Meldren, Our Daily Bread Director

IMG_0140 Pay it Forward Friday: Mary Meldren, Our Daily Bread Director

Our Daily Bread Director Mary Meldren (File photo provided by GulfLive)

Ten years ago, Mary Meldren found herself at the doorstep of Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen in Pascagoula, after her elderly neighbor did not receive both meals he had been signed up to have delivered.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” a man said upon meeting her. “We just don’t have a cook.”

As she watched sweat drip down the man’s bowed head, Mary found herself overcome with a notion she couldn’t explain. 

“Well I  cook,” she responded.

And just like that, the man offered her a job to start as a cook the following Monday morning. She immediately drove to Imperial Palace to quit her high-paying corporate position and has spent her time at Our Daily Bread ever since.

“I know God put me here for a reason,” Meldren said. “I get to do what I love to do – cook until I drop.”

Our Daily Bread has served the Pascagoula community as a soup kitchen for 36 years. It feeds more than 3,500 people a month (more than 4,000 a month during the summer) 7 days a week, including holidays. Meldren said the relationship with local churches, restaurants, grocery stores and youth groups across the United States and beyond has allowed for a volunteer base that keeps the organization going strong.

This community, she said, is critical to providing fresh, healthy food to residents in need within a safe environment.

“We’re a very giving place,” Meldren said. “It’s a very welcoming environment. People know they can come here and not be judged or looked down on. The human body is just hungry.”

But before she served as the director at Our Daily Bread, Meldren said many people are surprised to hear the story that landed her where she is today.

Born as Mary Dailey, she said that at four months old, after her mother and father’s divorce, her mother sold her illegally to a family in England. This is where she spent most of her younger years until her father found her and brought her back to live with him at the Sioux Bayou Fish Camp in Gautier.

“I was new to the area, and I didn’t have many friends,” she said. “So I would take some of the things from the bread truck in the neighborhood, like Twinkies, and give them to the other kids. It earned me the nickname ‘Dailey Bread.'”

Mary then spent time working in a variety of fields, including serving as a deputy sheriff and in a corporate position at Imperial Palace. During this time, she married, raised five boys, coached sports, led Boy Scout troops, and more. 

It was after her youngest was in school that she found herself with more free time, and she said she would spend most of that time riding her horse. When she came across an elderly neighbor whose grass needed mowed, she asked if he needed help. But what she found was that not only did he struggle with keeping his yard mowed, but he found himself living on only peanut butter for days. She immediately went to Our Daily Bread and signed him up for their meal delivery service (which was discontinued because of funding in June 2014). The program delivered two meals per day, and when he only received one meal, she found herself at the organization’s door.

After starting as a cook, she eventually also took on the role of director. In her time there, she started a vegetable garden, used her severance check from Imperial Palace to purchase restaurant equipment and supplies, hired the U.S. Navy Seabees to paint the building, added air conditioning and more. She said the changes have dramatically changed the reputation of the organization.

“In the past, it used to be if you wanted needles, prostitutes, etc., you could go to Our Daily Bread,” Meldren said. “I worked to turn that around and took more of a holistic approach to the food, too.”

She said she’s experienced a number of ups and downs while serving the organization. For example, when the delivery services ended in 2014, the last day of deliveries occurred in stormy, dark weather. Volunteers delivered all 487 meals in the pouring rain. In addition, the building experienced major flood damage.

On the other hand, she said she’s also experienced some miracles.

“One night, a man and his wife walked into the building after a long day of cooking,” Meldren said. “The man went to the woman who had been working there that day and asked what their biggest expenses were. After they answered, he pulled out cash from his briefcase and gave it to them.”

Mary said she went into work the next morning and saw an additional gift from the man – a piano, something Mary had always hoped for. That day, she found out the man had passed away the night before.

“God works his ways in magnificent ways,” Meldren said.

Today, Our Daily Bread continues to serve meals to the community every day of the year. Seniors come in at 10:30 a.m., and everyone else can come starting at 11:30 a.m. Donations are needed and greatly appreciated, including non-food items such as napkins, disposable silverware, aluminum foil, 39-gallon garbage bags, dish soap and more. Call 228-769-7510 for more information.

Even after her 10 years with the organization, Meldren said there’s nowhere else she’d rather be.

“What else is there to do but to praise God and give back to Him what He gives to you,” she said. “I’m extremely honored to still be here.”

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Pay it Forward Friday: Scott Lemon Awarded Humanitarian Award

Scott-Lemon-Pic Pay it Forward Friday: Scott Lemon Awarded Humanitarian Award

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Last week, The Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA appointed Scott Lemon as the 2017 recipient of the John R. Blossman Humanitarian Award at their annual banquet. Scott has been a key leader in the Gulf Coast area for the past three decades, serving the area not only through his profession, but also by his dedicated volunteering and the high standard he has set through his example as a husband, father, grandfather, and colleague and friend to many.

After graduating from Mississippi State University, Scott began his career in textile manufacturing. However, it wasn’t long before he felt led to follow in his grandfather and father’s footsteps and pursue a career in the insurance industry. He and his wife, Barbara, moved to Ocean Springs with their three daughters where Scott stepped into his dad’s shoes to co-manage Lemon-Mohler Insurance with Mark Mohler after his dad’s retirement.

Scott’s influence has been and continues to be widely felt along the Gulf Coast. He is involved with numerous boards, associations and affiliations, including the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Young Life, the Women’s Resources Center and the Home of Grace. He values integrity and accountablility, which stem from his deep faith in God, his love for the church, and for his family. “We certainly believe the young people of our community are our future and that’s why we support these organizations”, says Lemon. 

Scott knew when he married Barbara 29 years ago that he “married up;” she is gracious, genuine, and compassionate with a servant’s heart. Scott says she completes him. He and Barbara enjoy spending time with their daughters and families, which now includes grandson, Charlie, and they are excitedly awaiting the arrival of their second grandson.

The John R. Blossman Humanitarian Award was created in order to recognize individuals, like John, who put his fellow man first and is given each year at a banquet proudly hosted by the Beau Rivage Resort Casino. All who knew John Blossman felt his deep love for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Much of his life was spent in service to organizations that positively impacted the lives of others. The sponsorships and proceeds from the banquet help support the YMCA’s Strong Kids Campaign. With your financial assistance through sponsorships or donations, the YMCA is able to have a lasting impact on thousands of Gulf Coast children, teens and their families every year.”The YMCA has been a huge part of my life”, he said. “I’ve grown up there and have seen the organization help so many people through working with the mind, body and spirit”, says Lemon. 

It is clear that Lemon makes consistent efforts to help others and is a deserving community member to receive this award. When asked how people can get can get involved in the community, he encourages others to seek out and help your neighbors in times of need. “Find an organization you dearly love and serve it with all your heart and soul, and you won’t feel like you’re giving anything up.”  

Pay it Forward Fridays:

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.

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Pay it Forward Friday: Lana Watts

21752398_1267850323323283_5164119781496069569_n Pay it Forward Friday: Lana Watts

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Lana Watts, a Pascagoula High School nurse, recently earned her National Board School Nurse Certification and was celebrated with a surprise reception. 

As administrators and staff gathered in the conference room, PHS Anthony Herbert called Nurse Watts to come to the conference room to “check his blood pressure”. When she opened the door, she was surprised to find her colleagues with a cake that read, “Congrats Nurse Watts!”. 

Nurse Watts has been a nurse with the high school for 3 years. 

“I really just enjoy helping the kids. I love being a nurse, especially within the schools,” says Watts.

With this certification, she is now specialized to work within schools and become an expert in school nursing. 

Nurse Watts is one of only 40 National Board Certified School Nurses in the state of Mississippi and the second one in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District. 

“We just wanted to show how proud we are of her and how much we appreciate her”, says Herbert. 

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Chevron Employee Delivers Supplies to Harvey Victims in Beaumont

After Harvey slammed through the coastal lines of Texas and Louisiana, many volunteers rushed to aid those in bigger cities, such as Houston. But one man wanted to help with relief efforts in a smaller town and made a personal trip himself, along with a few others, to bring supplies and donations to the people of Beaumont, Texas. 

Wes Eubanks is a local Chevron employee who felt an overwhelming desire and connection to aid the people of Beaumont. Eubanks has always had a passion for helping others, but this time he knew he had to help with the city of Beaumont- because they had once also helped Jackson county from a previous disaster. 

After Katrina’s devastating destruction to the Coast, Westgate Memorial of Beaumont sent out a group of volunteers to help clean up and mud out efforts and get the people of Jackson County back on their feet. The church worked diligently and graciously to restore the county. Unbeknownst to them, Beaumont would need the same help themselves twelve years later. Fate aligned when Wes was referred to Westgate through a friend who was heading out to Beaumont, and he knew it was his turn to give back to the same group who had helped his town before. 

On September 8, Wes and his team packed up over 100 of JaxCoHome’s flood buckets, clothes, food, cases of water, rakes, shovels and carpentry tools and loaded them into a trailer to head out and deliver to the people of Beaumont.pic3-300x179 Chevron Employee Delivers Supplies to Harvey Victims in Beaumont “There were over 30 people at the church the day we arrived, but was told they are 200 strong working out in the community”, says Eubanks. The group spent the entire day handing out supplies and helping in any way possible to give back to Beaumont what they gave to Jackson County. Eubanks credits his team by saying, “They are working hard to rebuild the community and surrounding communities and help the people get stabilized.”

Wes Eubanks is no stranger himself when it comes to helping others in times of need. In fact, he frequently visits local homeless and rehab shelters, such as The Half Way Home, to bring gifts and make the residents feel special. pic3-300x179 Chevron Employee Delivers Supplies to Harvey Victims in Beaumont

During the holidays, Wes visits these shelters and hosts a Christmas party for the residents so they can feel and be a part of the Christmas spirit and celebrate with one another. “We have them open gifts and my band will play for Christmas songs for them. We just want to show them they are not forgotten”, said Eubanks.

Because of his consistent efforts to help others, JaxCoHome would like to dedicate our “Pay It Forward Friday” to Wes Eubanks from the Pascagoula Chevron Refinery. Thank you Wes for all that you do, not only for Jackson County, but also for anyone, anywhere who needs a helping hand. 

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Operation #JaxCoHomeRelief – Hurricane Harvey Aftermath: Project Flood Bucket


Do you want to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey?

Residents of the Gulf Coast have sat watching Hurricane Harvey pound the Texas coast all weekend. Flood waters have literally submerged major areas of Houston and thousands are left with homes in ruin. This hits very close to the residents of Jackson County. We don’t NEED to help, we HAVE to help. Some of the major needs for Texas victims right now are bottled water, and cleaning supplies. Thousands will return home to the muck we experienced during Hurricane Katrina, and we all know the monumental task of cleaning up that is ahead. is calling all Jackson County residents and surrounding areas to join in relief efforts by joining “Project Flood Bucket.” Operation #JaxCoHomeRelief

Important: Do not donate old clothes!


JaxCoHome has partnered with 3 strategic drop off locations in Jackson County. You may drop off supplies or assembled “flood buckets” at any of these locations. Assembled flood buckets preferred!


Jackson County drop off locations:

First United Methodist Church, Pascagoula, 2710 Pascagoula Street – Map

Heritage Funeral Home, Moss Point, 9721 Hwy 63 – Map

Ocean Springs Lumber, Ocean Springs, 1611 Government Street – Map

Bring bottled water, supplies for buckets, OR ASSEMBLED flood buckets to any of these locations by Sunday, September 3rd, afternoon. Transport will be taking supplies early next week. We invite you to include a personal note to the recipient. Share words of encouragement that you feel they need to hear during this tragic time. Knowing that their Gulf Coast neighbors are thinking of them may be the boost they need to get through the recovery phase. Be sure to enclose in a ZipLoc bag so not to get ruined during delivery. Let the victims know we are thinking about them here in Jackson County!

FloodBucket-Infographic-614x1024 Operation #JaxCoHomeRelief - Hurricane Harvey Aftermath: Project Flood Bucket

Some other suggestions you can include in your flood bucket (as long as the lid closes securely):

  • A Walmart gift card
  • Scouring pads
  • Fully wrapped and bagged candy or treats

This is our turn to give back Jackson County! Let’s help our brothers and sisters in Texas. Pay it forward and pay it back!

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This Teacher Has Dedicated 45 Years to Jackson County Schools

IMG_1066-300x225 This Teacher Has Dedicated 45 Years to Jackson County SchoolsOne name that is synonymous with Jackson County schools and administrators is Elizabeth Benefield. For the past 44 years, “Mrs. B” has been instrumental in teaching Jackson County students. The past 17 years she has been the principal at Resurrection Catholic Elementary School, which has two campuses in Pascagoula. During 2017-2018 school year, RCS will be transitioning. “The 2017-18 school year, I will be wearing a different hat.I will be working in collaboration with Noah Hamilton who will become our head master. It will be a new administrative arrangement for Resurrection where I will be providing extra administrative support, primarily at the secondary campus” Mrs. B explains. The transition initiated by the Biloxi Diocese is to create a vision of one school two campuses as Hamilton takes over as the primary administrator. Next year will be another adjustment for RCS as it marks the 18th year Elisabeth Benefield has served as the elementary school principal, and where she will officially retire.

Earlier this year RCS honored Mrs. Benefield at their Spring Fling celebration for all of her years of service. “Being the principal here has been very different here than it has been in other places. The sense of family I think really has made the difference. The good Lord working for all of us here keeping us together, makes it a pretty amazing place to be. When you begin every single day with prayer with the staff for the children roaming the halls, that’s a pretty amazing thing,” says Mrs. B.

We are happy to announce that Elisabeth Benefield is the “Pay it Forward Friday” recipient. Thank you for all your years of service to our Jackson County students.

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Pay It Forward Friday: Jenafer Gurley

This week’s Pay It Forward Friday is Jenafer Gurley, a 36 year-old artist from Pascagoula. Gurley was born in Pascagoula but lived in South Carolina up until 11 years ago when she decided to plant her roots in the beautiful coastal city of Pascagoula. From early 2014 to late 2016, Gurley owned an art studio that was located in Anchor Squares and eventually moved to downtown Pascagoula. On occasion, Gurley will “abandon” a piece of her work around the area so that other people can find it and enjoy it.

“I’ve had a few people email me telling me they found it and it’s a really neat idea,” explains Gurley.

Art isn’t the only thing Gurley is passionate about; she loves helping others and giving back to her community. Some of the projects she’s done around town include a food drive, a prom dress drive, free art lessons for kids and an annual drive for school supplies.

“All of my business owner friends and friends in bands chipped in with donations.  I loved having the parents and children come in to collect supplies,” says Gurley.

Gurley has also donated some of her time to Our Daily Bread and hopes to volunteer with other committees as well. She has just recently joined Emerge Pascagoula, which is a team of driven young men and women that promotes Pascagoula as a great place to live and visit.

“I feel Pascagoula has helped me grow so much since I moved back here I want to help take care of this city and its residents,” says Gurley.

Gurley is excited for the future of Pascagoula and has faith in the positive direction and progress that the new city government can bring.

“With our leaders showing so much spirit and motivation to do the right things, I’m hoping that will rub off on all of our citizens to step in and do the same positive things as well, with the same positive outlook,” says Gurley.

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