FEMA 361 shelter being named after Stewpot director

Published 12:13 am Saturday, August 9, 2014

NATCHEZ — When it is completed, one of the strongest buildings in Natchez will bear the name of a man who has spent 15 years making the community stronger one meal at a time.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors voted last week to name the currently under construction FEMA 361 storm shelter after Louis Gunning, the director of the Natchez Stewpot.

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Darryl Grennell told board members he’s been thinking of the designation for several months.

Email newsletter signup

“(Gunning) is an individual who takes the liberty every day to work tenaciously hard to make sure the people of Adams County are fed,” Grennell said. “Mr. Gunning has dedicated himself to the Natchez Stewpot.”

In one instance, Gunning was in recovery from having surgery, but left to make sure things at the Stewpot were running smoothly, Grennell said.

Supervisor Calvin Butler made the motion to name the shelter after Gunning, and Supervisor Angela Hutchins seconded it. The measure passed unanimously.

The FEMA 361 shelter will be a 10,000 square-foot structure that will be able to withstand the force of an EF5 tornado. Funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the $3,419,641 building is being built near the Stecker building at Natchez High School.

The grant funding stipulates the building — which is only meant for short-term sheltering — must be located near a school. Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford Sr. said the construction for the project is approximately 30 percent complete, and could be finished by the end of next Spring.

Gunning said he was pleased with the board’s vote, but had been surprised to hear the news.

“I appreciate the thought and I feel like it is quite an honor, and I was really not expecting it,” he said. “I feel really awkward about it, because I don’t know the people thought that much about it.”

Gunning has recently had to take some time off from the Stewpot because of an illness, but said he plans to get back to it soon.

He characterized his work at the Stewpot as “the outside man” who didn’t do any cooking.

“There are so many people who are so good, who volunteer and do as much work as I do,” he said.

“I am pleased that the community knows we are there and how much we really do for Natchez.”

When Gunning started with the Stewpot, the kitchen was serving approximately 85 meals a day. That number has now grown to 350, he said.

The Stewpot serves hot meals — no questions asked — to anyone who needs them.

Some of the recipients are homeless, but many are simply folks who are less fortunate, sick or elderly, Gunning said.

Gunning said he’s tried to stay out of the spotlight as much as he could, but has stepped out from time to time because all of the Stewpot’s funding comes from donations.

Those who want to donate goods can do so at the Stewpot’s 69 E. Franklin St. location or give money by mail at PO Box 298, Natchez, MS 39121, Gunning said.