SANTA MARIA—Days before Hurricane Dolly made landfall, Primera Iglesia Bautista constructed a building to house a food pantry. Little did the church realize how crucial a move that would be.
In the 72 hours after Hurricane Dolly drenched the area, the congregation distributed more than $1 million in food donated from groups such Texas Baptist Men, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Red Cross, according to Pastor Billy Schwarz. Up to 5,000 families stood in line for as long as 90 minutes to receive food.
BGCT Director of Bivocational/Smaller Church Ministries Robert Cepeda helped connect Primera Iglesia Bautista with the Red Cross and food in Brownsville and Harlingen.
“If someone’s out there at one o’clock in the morning for food, you know they need it,” Schwarz said.
The church was the only source of food for people in several communities. Cars were flooded in areas, limiting transportation options. Houses didn’t have electricity, allowing food to spoil in nonworking refrigerators. The congregation divided up the food to other pantries so they could provide food in other locations.
“Thank God we were able to get this,” Schwarz said. “Without it, people may have starved.”
In addition to distributing food, the church also prepared about 4,000 meals for people in need.
Schwarz said families in the area are beginning to recover from the storm. Houses have electricity and people can travel easier. But many people in the region work in the farming industry and the rainwater has not dried on all the fields, decreasing the need for labor.
Until the water recedes, people continue looking for temporary sustenance, Schwarz said. The congregation’s food pantry continues to provide food after worship services three times a week.
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About 60 people receive food each time the pantry is open. Schwarz believes this increased outreach will be needed for another four weeks.
The food pantry has increased interest in the congregation. Many people have come by the church to express their thanks for the assistance.
“I think it was all worth it. We’ve seen people in church that we’ve never seen before. It’s just a great blessing.”