Gunning: Nonprofit needs donations of time, funds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2003

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of stories about the holiday wish lists of Miss-Lou charitable organizations.

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Louis Gunning describes Stewpot this way: the organization fills a gap for residents in need.

&uot;These are prepared meals mainly for people who can’t prepare them themselves,&uot; said Gunning, president of the Stewpot board and a volunteer for the past 12 years. &uot;This fills the gap between those groups who give out bags of food.&uot;

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Established in 1985, Natchez’s Stewpot delivers meals to about 140 people every day and serves another 40 or so in its kitchen on Franklin Street.

Stewpot’s most important costs, of course, are food and supplies, as well as utilities.

Most of the staff is volunteers, except for cook and manager Johnnie B. Davis, who Gunning calls &uot;the most dependable person I’ve ever met.&uot;

At the end of the fiscal year this year, Gunning and his board found themselves in a tough spot. They ended the year with little cash to spare and were facing a costly bill to replace the air conditioning system.

Gunning, himself an International Paper retiree, knew it would be difficult to rely on donations from IP employees who had just lost their jobs or who had moved away.

So, in a newspaper column, he asked for food and monetary donations. To his delight, residents responded quickly.

In fact, Stewpot now has plenty of food items to help last for a while.

Even a fellow former IP employee who had transferred more than a year ago came through with his regular donation, a check Gunning hadn’t even been able to bring himself to hope for.

But that doesn’t mean the organization is out of the woods. Stewpot still has needs, and a holiday wish list would be topped by monetary donations, Gunning said. &uot;What we have experienced this year is a great response to giving us food,&uot; he said. &uot;We really need that, because it usually has to last until next year. Our real need this year is money.&uot;

In addition to food costs, the one salary and utilities, Stewpot has other costs you might not think of &045;&045; including 160 plates per day.

In addition to food and money, Stewpot could not operate without people.

Several regular volunteers help deliver midday meals, with Gunning filling in when someone is not available. Several churches rotate weeks of volunteering.

But the organization could always use more drivers, he said.

&uot;The community really gives us a lot of support,&uot; he said. But Gunning also has one more wish. He often worries about people who might not know about Stewpot and the service it provides &045;&045; the very people who need the service. He urges churches or other organizations to spread the word about Stewpot.

&uot;Most people are not going to call themselves,&uot; he said.