When Idlewild Baptist Church decided to hold a food drive recently — it had no idea the response would be so great that it would essentially create a traffic jam because so many church members showed up to drop off contributions.
Typically, the church takes weeks to plan big events.
In this case, it sprang into action.
As medical and economic impacts of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) began ramping up, the church started fielding more requests for assistance, said Yerusha Bunag, director of local missions.
The church was hearing from schools it has been involved with in partnerships that began before the pandemic, she said. It also noted that the church food pantry, which has operated for years, was getting depleted.
Plus, Bunag said: “We had an increasing number of people needing help, from our own membership, but also an outpouring of people wanting to give help.”
So, as the week before the March 29 food drive wore on, the need to act became clearer.
“Just through prayer, through meeting with the leadership — virtually — we said, ‘Let’s just trust God. He’ll work through our people to be generous at this time,” she said.
They decided they could use the church’s Gatheria area as a warehouse to hold the donations.
Bunag recruited youth volunteers to help collect the food.
She also put out the word about the food drive through an email on the afternoon of March 28, and a posting on Facebook.
Senior Pastor Ken Whitten made an appeal to help during the 9:15 a.m. livestream service on March 29, which was repeated at the 11 a.m. service.
The food drive was supposed to be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
By 1:30 p.m., when volunteers arrived, though, cars were already lining up to drop off their donations.
“We did not stop until 4:30 p.m.,” Bunag said.
Although the church did not count the cars that came, it was a steady stream, Bunag said.
At one point, about 2:30 p.m., one of the guys coordinating traffic flow radioed and told her: “‘I just got word that we’re backed up to (North) Dale Mabry (Highway). And, Van Dyke (Road) has started to get backed up.”
To help speed things up, some guys who had been directing traffic were reassigned to work an additional collection point.
“It was really hot,” Bunag said. But, no one was complaining.
The volunteers were so pumped up, they didn’t even want to take a break, she added.
“Everybody was on an adrenaline high,” Bunag said.
Pastors were out there sweating, too, she said.
It was work, but it was fun, too, she said. “Cars would go by and they would honk. ‘Hey, it’s great to see you.’”
All the while, the church practiced social distancing, with volunteers working in different parts of the campus, in groups of 10 or fewer — wearing masks and gloves, and keeping a safe distance apart.
And, nobody complained about having to wait.
After the volunteers left on Sunday, the church’s hallways and lobbies were filled with boxes and bags of foods.
Then, Bunag huddled with Nancy Reed, the church’s events coordinator; Tonya Sloan, its food service director; and Kirk Malone, its Benevolence assistant, to plan out the rest of the operation.
Bunag created an online signup sheet seeking volunteers. By midmorning, she’d met the need for 80 volunteers who would work in three shifts, at four locations.
“We were done sorting all of that on Monday.
“On Tuesday, we began making toiletry packets and food boxes,” she said, noting they filled hundreds of boxes and toiletry packets.
“So, on Wednesday, we began distribution. Again, volunteers from our church that had trucks or SUVs signed up to deliver to three different schools (Kenly, Just and Booker T. Washington elementary schools).”
The efforts, she said, are to share God’s love — and to let others see that love in action.
“It goes beyond, ‘Here’s a box of food,’” she said.
“We want to give people not just hope that we care for them and we love them, but we want to give them the same hope in God, that he’s in control of the situation, and he’s going to provide for our every need,” she said.
Published April 08, 2020