Back Bay Mission – Celebrates 90 Years of Service

For 90 years Back Bay Mission has been in the business of helping those less fortunate. The story of the mission began simply in 1920’s era Biloxi when the congregation of a local Evangelical Synod (council of the church) saw great need among the poorest of the community. Many of the families served were workers in the booming seafood industry in Biloxi, where pay was low and the hours long and grueling. Most of these hard-working families came from Eastern Europe specifically to lend their talents to the seafood industry.
Pastor George M.L. Hoffman and synod member, Louise Andre McDonnell, began visiting the worker camps along Back Bay and found a family in need. Ms. McDonnell began driving the children to church every Sunday and soon there were more and more children making the trip. A truck was purchased to drive the kids to and from services. Soon two chapels and a health clinic as opened on Back Bay for the families.
This outreach program became known as Back Bay Mission. The Evangelical Church supported the mission and the people in the camps on Back Bay, financially and with food and clothing to meet the great demand.
Today, Back Bay Mission is part of the United Church of Christ and still supports the neediest in the community. Reverend Shari Prestemon leads the way in the missions’ efforts. In 2011, BBM helped more than 5000 people just in emergency services and through their food pantry.
BBM received a federal grant in July of 2012 to be used to help veterans and their families that are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless. The $187,000 grant will be used over the next 12 months.
Built in 2009, The Micah Center is directly next to the Mission and has many things that make the lives of the homeless in the area easier. The folks that use the Micah Center have access to laundry facilities, showers, clean clothes, a phone, mail services and computers that allows them to search and apply for jobs and contact family via e-mail.
The Mission also teams up with other agencies in the area to provide services to the homeless. Once a week, representatives from the Biloxi V.A., Coastal Family Health Center, Vocational Rehab, The Mental Health Center and the WIN Job Center, come to the Micah Center to help link-up those in need with services that they might otherwise miss out on.
The “Home At Last Program” administered by BBM is a permanent supportive housing program that has been in place in Biloxi since 2002. To date, this service has provided 17 apartments in Biloxi. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in July of this year to build 2 more units for homeless veterans. BBM needs $700K more to build 8 additional units for veterans in the area. There is an estimated 21,000 veterans in Harrison County.
Since the 1960’s BBM has been using volunteers from the United Churches of Christ to assist with the construction of low income and rehab housing. Director, Rev. Shari Prestemon puts it this way, “We are what God meant when He spoke of ‘the church.’ This is people giving and receiving…helping one another. We are the living, breathing church right where Jesus was, in the midst of the people. This is the embodied gospel church sharing the love of Christ by everyday deeds of mercy.”
The logo for Back Bay Mission has these words emblazoned around a sketch of a fellowshipping crowd, “…do justice, love kindness, walk humbly”.

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