EL DORADO, Ark. (03/26/20) — Store shelves may be empty but one church’s parish hall is filled with food and is ready to give if you’re willing to receive.
One item at time, volunteers in the community filled brown paper bags in hopes of meeting a hunger need in the Union County Community.
“There’s a significant number in the community who may not have a support system in place to help offset those increased needs and fewer resources,” Reverend Robert Wetherington said.
Rev. Wetherington and his wife spoke with other members at the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and they were all cohesive in wanting to help those who have been affected by the recent layoffs and other life changes that transpired during this Coronavirus pandemic.
From there, that’s when a group of them approached the Interfaith Help Services to create a partnership because they had the resources and were already offering a food pantry service to benefit those in the community.
The food items are only given to those in need, particularly those who come with a referral form the Department of Human Services or from a partnering congregation suggesting they are a family in need of food.
Now, St. Mary’s, local churches and IHS are able to expand their reach and help more people.
“The first step was me getting on my cell phone and reaching out to my colleagues from the downtown El Dorado area and just said hey we’re trying to increase our capacity to yield food and their response was overwhelming,” Wetherington said.
The group was able to raise more than $11,000 and purchase 10,600 pounds of food. Hauling all of that was a task but the community also stepped in to make sure everything was sent to El Dorado from Warren.
Hepco Inc. let the group use one of their trucks to take to Warren and pick up the items from the Arkansas Food Bank. Two other trucks and trailers were used by members of the church.
The whole project was community led and driven from the start and there are still funds left over where they will be able to purchase additional items as they determine what the needs are.
“It really has been an ecumenical experience,” Wetherington said. “It was a button that needed to be pushed and it was nice to be able to put some folks together who were willing to push the button.”
Each sick is filled with non-perishable food items including vegetables, fruit, rice, pasta, cereal, snacks, coffee or tea and juice and milk for the kids. Recipients also receive a frozen meat. The items are all things that can be made into a larger meal.
The sacks can be picked up Monday through Friday at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.