By Courtney Connell

In 2020, despite the COVID chaos, I had a lot of time for reflection and prayer. Since 2019 I had been praying for purpose in my single season of life. I had a killer career but was struggling with why the personal side of things was so lacking. I was learning how to be faithful and surrender every part of me to God’s glory.

Due to this great career, I was financially blessed the year I prayed for purpose, and with that came the question, what do I do with the tithe associated with that blessing? God responded, and I was a little mind-blown. I thought, “There is no way He wants me to dive off into this by myself,” but I wasn’t alone. He was right there with me, along with some wonderful people who prayed for me and helped me get ramped up. Two of those sweet souls were in my single ladies’ small group from church and are now proud board members of Pine Belt Foster Resources (PFR).

It all happened so quickly. I had met with the president of Elijah’s Closet on the coast and discussed extending their services to the Pine Belt. I wasn’t ready to take on all the paperwork and setting up a nonprofit, so she agreed to let us be an extension of them until we got established in Hattiesburg. I started looking for a storage unit. What do you know, the largest unit’s full year of rent was within $10 of my tithe amount. We signed the lease in January 2021 and started filling that thing up!

In January 2023, we moved into a storefront five times the size of our storage unit. We serve the surrounding counties of the Pine Belt area, from Jeff Davis to Marion, Jones, Wayne, and even down to Perry and Green counties. We provide everything from clothing and shoes to beds, car seats and diapers. We have helped more than 250 children in the last three years. We have brought smiles, love and hope, along with practical necessities for children who are hurting.

This passion project started out as obedience with a labor of love attached. Now that I look back, it was more about God’s love for me and giving me a chance to share His love in my community. He perfectly orchestrated this opportunity for me during a time that felt a little bit like a season of wilderness. Now it isn’t just for me — multiple people have this haven to come and give love, tenderness and support to children who desperately need it.

Courtney Connell is president of Pine Belt Foster Resources, a volunteer-run nonprofit based in Hattiesburg. PFR’s mission is to serve families by providing necessary items to children in foster care and families with children susceptible of going into foster care.