An operation run by the leaders of more than two dozen churches fed a line of nearly 1,200 families struggling to put food on the table early Tuesday morning outside St. Stephen Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Maryland.
Families like Eunice Steele’s lined up to take home fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and other household staples.
“Some people didn’t get their unemployment checks, so that meant they couldn’t buy food,” Steele said.
Waiting to greet them was Bishop Lanier Twyman and nearly 100 volunteers, people with open hearts ready to fill open trunks.
“They’re just trying to make ends meet and we are willing to do everything we can to help them make ends meet,” Twyman said.
St. Stephen is the distribution hub, but the operation is run by the Temple Hills Coalition of Pastors, a team of faith leaders.
“We share everything,” Pastor Lincoln Burruss of the Central Baptist Church of Camp Springs said. “I have a truck, they have a forklift. Guess what? We all have a truck, we all have a forklift.”
St. Stephen had been doing this even before the pandemic, feeding about 300 families a week. But when the need quadrupled, so did the operation.
Food was distributed three times over on Tuesday. Once when people got food loaded into their cars, twice when volunteers delivered food to seniors who couldn’t make it out and thrice, when other area churches came to pick up food for their own distribution events.
“People's needs are so real. This stuff is so serious and to be there to help, any portion, anybody can get that we can help, is making a difference,” Pastor Charles Whitaker, of the River of Life Church, said.
Donna Barrett filled her car to the brim with food for undocumented students and their families. The teacher who normally shows up on Tuesdays has COVID-19, so Barrett stepped in.
Pointing to News4’s reporter and photographer, Barret said, “If you needed it and said you needed it, I’d help you. If you needed it, I’d help you.” Then she turned directly toward the camera, “If you need it let us know.”
That giving spirit is contagious at St. Stephens and after nearly a year of Tuesdays, families have come to realize that this is doing much more than feeding their bodies. In addition to getting folks fed, some volunteers are connecting the unemployed with job opportunities in Prince George’s County.
Steele agreed that the effort is indeed one that “feeds the soul.”