FEEDING MINISTRIES CARRYING ON THROUGH CORONAVIRUS SHUTDOWN
By LORETTA FULTON
Everyone is learning to adapt on the fly to the coronavirus crisis, and local feeding ministries are no exception.
By order of Gov. Greg Abbott, commercial restaurants are closed until at least April 3 except for drive-through pickup. Feeding ministries are moving to a version of that model. Breakfast on Beech Street (B.O.B.S), City Light Community Ministries, and Love & Care Ministries all are eliminating indoor sit-down meals while still serving nutritious hot meals to people in need.
“It’s a grab and go procedure now,” said Lee Hampton, who serves on a B.O.B.S team sponsored by the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest. “There’s no gathering of people anymore.”
That scene will be repeated at City Light Community Ministries and Love & Care Ministries until life gets back to “normal” at the end of the coronavirus scare.
In the top left photo, Janet McGee, food ministry coordinator for Love & Care Ministries, pushes a cart of to-go containers filled with a hot lunch Monday, March 23. In the photo at right, Joe Biles prepares sandwiches and in the photo at bottom Biles and Lee Hampton prepare take-out bags. Biles and Hampton are members of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest team that volunteers with Breakfast on Beech Street (B.O.B.S.). Volunteers and staff at Abilene’s feeding ministries are working overtime during the coronavirus threat. Photos by Loretta Fulton
Also, Meals on Wheels volunteers will continue to deliver noon meals Monday through Friday, but a plan is in place for people who don’t want to come in contact with the volunteer driver, said Betty Bradley, executive director.
“Our plan is to be here throughout the duration, delivering meals,” Bradley said.
Clients can request that the meal containers be placed in a plastic bag and hung on the doorknob. Clients who request that procedure will be notified by the driver to be sure the client is home before leaving the meal.
Following are details on each ministry’s plan, plus the address and contact information. Volunteers and donations are always needed.
CITY LIGHT COMMUNITY MINISTRIES
336 Hickory St.
John Moore, pastor for missions, First Baptist Church
Serving hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Sunday breakfast: 8:30 a.m.
Hot meals will still be served for patrons of City Light Community Ministries, sponsored by First Baptist Church. But the delivery system will be different. Until the coronavirus threat ends, meals will be packed in to-go boxes and handed out at the door to the dining room, along with a dessert and drink.
“We’ll have this ready and hand it to them,” said John Moore, pastor for missions at First Baptist.
Normally, everyone comes into the cozy dining room and sits down together to eat. Other services provided by City Light will continue, at least for now. That includes showers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, mail service for people with no permanent address, and crisis counseling.
The counseling, normally done on-site will be by phone for now, Moore said. The ministry is for people needing assistance to pay rent, utilities, etc. That need hasn’t peaked yet, Moore said, but is expected to.
“We know that’s fixing to come,” he said.
Another program that won’t be cancelled but has been modified is Big A for children in first through sixth grades. Normally, the children meet at City Light on Wednesday evenings for a meal, Bible study, and recreation. For now, the volunteers who work with the children will pack a bag of food, games, and other gifts to take to the children.
“We’re trying to at least look in on those kids,” Moore said.
BREAKFAST ON BEECH STREET
1420 N. Third St. (Faces Beech Street at corner of Beech and North Third)
Contact through Facebook page (BOBS Breakfast on Beech Street)
Serving hours: Opens 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday
Normally, folks start lining up in front of B.O.B.S. well before the 6:30 a.m. opening time Monday through Friday.
That much won’t change, but for the foreseeable future, they will pick up their sacked meal and leave, rather than sitting down at a dining table.
“There’s no gathering of people anymore,” said Lee Hampton, a member of the team sponsored by the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest.
Breakfast will be brought to the guests in a to-go box and they will take the meal with them. Pre-poured coffee will be served with the meal. As usual, a sack lunch will be handed out along with breakfast.
The process started Monday, March 16. At the end of the week, B.O.B.S board chairman Terry Stremmel issued a status report and concluded with: “I feel God is blessing our efforts!”
LOVE & CARE MINISTRIES
233 Fannin St
Mark Hewitt, founder and executive director
Serving hours: breakfast, 7-8:30 a.m Monday-Friday.; lunch, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; also, a meal always is served on the street on Wednesdays and Fridays
Like City Light Community Ministries, the administration of Love & Care Ministries is changing its food delivery system until the crisis abates. Instead of inviting guests inside to sit and eat, hot meals are taken to guests outside.
“They come to the door and we’re handing it to them at the door,” said Mark Hewitt, founder and executive director.
That process includes breakfast and lunch. And, the street feeding ministry continues on Wednesdays and Fridays. Guests who go to Love & Care Ministries for their meals can sit on the sidewalk to eat of take the meal with them.
“Most of them just take it and go,” Hewitt said.
Like everyone else, Hewitt has no idea how long the coronavirus threat will continue. But he vows to continue serving Abilene’s neediest for the duration.
“We’re adjusting to whatever we have to do to make it work,” he said.
MEALS ON WHEELS PLUS
717 N. Tenth St.
Betty Bradley, executive director
Email form: https://www.mealsonwheelsplus.com/contact-us
Serving hours: Noon meal is delivered Monday-Friday
The coronavirus threat has hit Meals on Wheels Plus extra hard. Meals will continue to be delivered Monday through Friday, but four upcoming much-needed fundraising events have been cancelled, all the way through September.
And, with the universities closed and older people feeling especially threatened, Meals on Wheels is experiencing a shortage of volunteers to deliver meals. Betty Bradley, executive director who started the meals program in Abilene forty-five years ago, is adapting on the fly.
“I’ve never seen a situation like this,” she said.
A few modifications are being made while the crisis lasts. Either Bradley or a staff member will stand at the front door to allow a certain number of volunteers in at one time.
“We’re going to try to limit the number in the staging area,” Bradley said, referring to the area where volunteers pack meals and drink/dessert bags into carry bags for delivery.
Also, some clients are requesting no-contact with the delivery person because of fear of exposure to the virus. Clients can request that the meal containers be placed in a plastic bag and hung on the doorknob. Clients who request that procedure will be notified by the driver to be sure the client is home before leaving the meal.
Loretta Fulton is founder and editor of Spirit of Abilene, an online faith forum