What does community outreach look like in a time of global pandemic? For the Spanish American church, whose food bank has been serving its community for more than 20 years, the ministry must continue.
On March 18, about 40 volunteers distributed 10,000 pounds of food to more than 100 families. About 250 families were served on March 25. “God cares for His people,” said Mario Melendez, community services director at Spanish American church. “We have the privilege to serve others during a time of crisis.”
On both service days, Mario and his wife, Gloria Melendez, experienced no shortage of volunteers; in fact, due to safety precautions, they had to turn away those eager to help.
Volunteers and recipients followed social distancing guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local government. There were fewer volunteers, all wore masks and gloves, and volunteer stations were marked with red tape to designate a minimum of six feet between each person. Additionally, all recipients received gloves and a mask to wear before they entered the line to pick up food.
Although the circumstances have changed, a typical day of distribution begins in the same way for Gloria and Mario. They start at 6:30 a.m. with prayer for God’s order, harmony, peace, and protection to surround all who are involved—drivers, packers, distributors, and everyone in between. Some days they don’t finish until 8 p.m.
“We see God’s protection in all that we are doing during this crisis,” said Gloria. “The willingness that God has placed in people who are eager to help out—it’s amazing.”
Because of the high cost of living in Los Angeles, this food bank is a relief for families living paycheck to paycheck. Other recipients who benefit are seniors who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and those who are unemployed.
Although the food bank is currently open to distribute food just twice a month, the work isn’t always completed during those days. Food is also available on an as-needed basis on weekends. In the past, the team collaborated with their youth ministry to deliver food to elderly church members who are unable to go out. Mario and Gloria have also recently partnered with Sabbath School teachers to pick up and deliver food to class members and their families.
“Hunger has no color, no shape, no age, no religion, and no country; it affects all,” said Mario. “With the food bank ministry that my family is involved in, we try to make a difference in our local community to get rid of hunger—one person at a time.”