Just as the semitruck full of food pulled into the parking lot at Second Baptist Church in Granite City, the skies opened up, said Pastor Chris Sedabres. But even as the rain poured down, people came to the church to receive free groceries and supplies. And many of them stayed to help, Sedabres said.
“We had a lot of people from the neighborhood come to get food, but a lot of them stayed to help and unload the trucks,” Sedabres said. “To see the people come out and stand in the rain and help us, it was unbelievable. It was nothing short of a miracle of God.”
His church was one of six central and southern IBSA congregations that distributed food before Thanksgiving. The food, donated by the Dot Foods company, was delivered by Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief.
In Springfield (pictured above and at right), around 1,000 people were served at Springfield Southern Baptist Church, where volunteers and others gave away 40,000 pounds of food. In Carlinville, Peggy Brown was working at Emmanuel Baptist Church as volunteers began to prepare for the distribution there. The administrative assistant is a trained Disaster Relief volunteer, but the distribution at her church was her first callout.
“Everybody’s struggling a little bit more due to COVID,” Brown said. She called several single mothers to let them know about the giveaway, and they in turn called some of their friends.
The giveaway included perishable items not always provided through food pantries and other distribution sites, including milk, yogurt, and cookies. Another three semi-loads went to Proviso Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago to be distributed in the city.
The food distributions are part of a 2020-specific strategy employed by Disaster Relief volunteers to keep on serving, despite an unusual and challenging year. State coordinator Butch Porter has worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), ministries, and companies like Dot Foods to procure needed items to distribute for free across the state.
Along with the pre-Thanksgiving food giveaway, DR also prepared 96 pallets of personal protective equipment (PPE) and distributed them across Illinois. They’re expecting another shipment of masks in early December, plus a load of paper and laundry supplies from Ohio-based ministry Matthew 25.
“It’s kind of like the fish and loaves,” said Sharon Carty, a Disaster Relief leader and volunteer from Emmanuel Baptist in Carlinville. “God just kept making it multiply.”
Along with various agencies and ministries, DR has also received help from a Mt. Vernon company that loaned them refrigerated trailer to transport food. Jim Czerwinski, a member of Ina Missionary Baptist Church, has donated warehouse space to store the goods. Carty said volunteers have also stepped up to transport items where they’re needed.
In a season where normal activities are on pause, she said, DR has found another avenue to serve. “People have just stepped up and said, ‘Hey, we can do that.’”
Photo at top: Volunteers distribute food at Springfield Southern Baptist Church on Tuesday, Nov. 24. Local media were also on-hand to cover the event. Photo courtesy of Carla Bybee