Biloxi's Godmother


by Patrick Appel

Christina Davidson profiles Rita Baldwin, theĀ  executive director at Loaves and Fishes, a soup kitchen in Biloxi, Mississippi:

Rita works at least full-time hours at a job that earns her a take home pay of about $850 a month, with no benefits. Like nearly 50 million other Americans, she lacks the luxury of insurance, which means recent health crises have left her about $60,000 in debt to doctors and hospitals.
With a BS in Social Work, a Master's in Adult Education, and extensive work experience, Rita could qualify for a cushier job, but leaving Loaves and Fishes would make her feel like she was abandoning those who need her most during an era of the most widespread desperation she has witnessed in her 58 years. Post-Katrina was a crisis of extraordinary magnitude, but with outside assistance pouring in, the forward outlook did not feel as bleak as it does now. "They're my family," she says of the people Loaves and Fishes feeds, explaining why she could never leave them. "It's like I've become godmother to the homeless of Biloxi."