A West Dallas community ministry that provided 750,000 meals to needy families and individuals last year already has given away its 1 millionth meal in 2020.
At the current pace, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand likely will distribute more than 1.25 million meals by the end of the year.
Maria Arellano and her family received the 18th meal distributed at the Oct. 10 drive-through grocery distribution and the 1 millionth meal provided by Brother Bill’s Helping Hand ministry this year.
Volunteers in facemasks held signs saying, “We love you” and “God bless you.” Wes Keyes, executive director of Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, offered congratulations to the mother of three while another volunteer loaded groceries into her car.
Arellano went through a high-risk pregnancy earlier this year and gave birth one week before the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in March.
“That child’s entire life so far has been in the time of COVID,” Keyes said. “Maria was unable to continue at her job. Her husband Iden was left as the only breadwinner for their family. They have depended on us for food and diapers.”
Dramatic increase in needs and services
Needs have increased dramatically in the communities Brother Bill’s Helping Hand serves since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, said Keyes, a graduate of Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary.
At the same time, the ministry adapted quickly to changing circumstances. On March 14, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand offered its first-weekly drive-through grocery distribution. Qualified families receive about $300 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, eggs, milk and other essentials without leaving their cars.
“Pre-COVID in 2020, we were serving 61,000 meals a month,” Keyes said. “Post-COVID, we’re serving 120,000 meals a month. For all practical purposes, the number served has doubled.”
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Other ministries at Brother Bill’s Helping Hand “look different than in the past,” but have continued to serve increasing numbers during the pandemic, Keyes noted. For example, the ministry’s popular summer soccer and ballet programs each were offered virtually rather than as in-person camps.
Although the Pathways job training and discipleship program for women has been unable to resume in-person classes, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand held a drive-through event for graduates of the program to receive new clothes.
Serving in a COVID-19 ‘hot spot’
“We’re still in a hot spot—one of the most infected areas of the city,” Keyes noted.
In addition to high instances of COVID-19, many of the people in the communities the ministry serves are at high risk—either because of underlying health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or because they are in intergenerational households with elderly relatives.
“We had 595 counseling visits last year. We already have had 1,033 counseling visits this year,” Keyes reported.
He commended the workers at Brother Bill’s Helping Hand—many of whom live in the communities served by the ministry—for their resilience and flexibility. About one-third of them personally have been affected by COVID-19.
He also expressed thanks for the donors whose gifts have enabled the ministry to meet expanding needs in difficult days. Baptist churches in Texas help Brother Bill’s Helping Hand through gifts to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.
“It’s quite remarkable the generosity we’ve seen,” Keyes said. “It’s really inspiring.”
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