By Bud Kirkpatrick, Member of Parkway Heights UMC, Hattiesburg, Miss.
Photo right: Edwards Street founder, Warren Pittman stands outside the building named in his honor.
Warren Pittman died on Nov. 4, 2015 at age 94. He was at Silver Creek Retirement Community in Olive Branch, MS. But for many people in the south Mississippi area he lives every day, as they have food to eat, and have many of their social and medical needs met, through the results of his efforts, The Edwards Street Fellowship Center in Hattiesburg.
It is through those dedicated efforts of Warren Pittman that Edwards Street Fellowship Center exists and continues to expend, both in numbers of people served and services to those people. It is truly a place that is "Shining the Light of God's Love."
"The legacy of compassion and love left by Rev. Pittman has touched generations of individuals and families. His vision for making a difference for struggling families in the Irene Chapel and Palmer's Crossing areas of southeast Hattiesburg has exploded to impact people in need across the Pine Belt," Ann McCullen, Director of Edwards Street Fellowship Center, said.
Warren Pittman could not stand to see a church closed. When he became Superintendent of the Hattiesburg District of the United Methodist Church in 1975, Edwards Street United Methodist Church had six members. Subsequently the church and parsonage were declared abandoned.
Feeling strongly that the church could be useful to the community, Pittman called a citywide group together to discuss possibilities. William Carey College (University) took a survey of the area and found that a child care center and youth recreation were the greatest needs of that area.
Pittman presented these findings to the Hattiesburg area United Methodist Churches. In November 1978, the Work Area on Missions at Parkway Heights United Methodist Church stepped forward to be a participant in this program. The ministry born of that group was named the Edwards Street Fellowship Center (ESFC).
Edwards Street Fellowship Center began in 1979 as a tutoring program and child care center. Today the ministries include a food pantry that serves 1,200 families per month, a thrift store, multiple children's programs, a Bible study for senior adults, and numerous wellness activities. The doors will open to a free medical clinic in January. Rev. Pittman's faithful answer to God's call to care for neighbors in need continues to offer help and hope in an amazing way.
"He has left an awesome legacy to our community!" McCullen said.
In 2013 their Board of Directors announced an aggressive $2 million endowment campaign to develop a stable economy for ESFC. The proceeds from the endowment will provide funding to meet day-to-day needs, and form a secure foundation on which to undertake strategic planning and build a realistic future.
In honor of their father, and in support of Edwards Street's ministry, Warren Pittman's sons, Tom and Bob, and their families have made a $125,000 commitment to the endowment. That little church will hereafter be known as the "Warren Pittman Founders' Hall,'" and continue to be a vital part of the ministry.
The little church, at 1904 Edwards Street, is still in use along with two other newer buildings across the street soon to be expanded to make room for a medical clinic.
The ministry at Edwards Street Fellowship Center (ESFC) is supported through the financial contributions of the Mississippi Annual Conference, area churches, businesses,and individuals. Hundreds of volunteers give generously of their time, resources, knowledge, and experiences to sustain the programs and services of the ministry.
Prior to coming to Hattiesburg as District Superintendent, in 1975, Warren Pittman served as Pastor of Parkway Heights United Methodist Church (UMC) 1959 - 1963. During his ministry, Parkway Heights hada gain in membership of over 200 and the church completed a building program which included construction of a new kitchen, Fellowship Hall, classrooms and renovation of the original educational facility.
Rev. Pittman served other pastorates in Monticello, Centerville, Forest Hill, Forest, and in Jackson at Broadmeadow and St. Luke's UMC. He served as Superintendent for the Hattiesburg and Brookhaven districts of the UMC. Additionally, he served a stint as Director of the Conference Council on Ministries for the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church, based in Jackson.
"I know his family and friends will miss him, but we pray they are comforted knowing the impact of Rev. Pittman's life will continue to bless our community for many, many years to come. Our center's mission statement personifies Rev. Pittman's life -- shining the light of God's love!" McCullen said.
For additional information about Edwards Street Fellowship Center, visit the web site www.esfcntr.org
or call 601-544-6149. Persons donating food or wishing to volunteer should call the same number, during normal business hours.
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