Congregations work together to distribute food boxes
By Lindsay Peyton
Rev. Wade Floyd was appointed pastor of FUMC Bay City just in time to participate in one normal Matagorda County Christmas Food Box Drive before COVID-19 changed everything. The whole community would get involved in the event, launched years ago by the Bay City Police, he explained. Business owners, schools, churches and residents collected canned and dry goods, and then assembled them into boxes to distribute. As volunteers worked side-by-side to ensure those in-need would have a holiday meal, Wade thought, “This is the church. This is what it’s all about.”
“It was great,” he recalled. “It was ecumenical. There were pastors, police officers and kids from area schools all there. It was a blast.”
That was 2019. Little did the pastor know that a pandemic was on the horizon – and that the outreach effort would be impossible the following year.
The Christmas drive was not the only event that would soon face obstacles. “The pandemic presented a challenge, especially in terms of volunteers,” Floyd said.
That made it difficult for ministry. In the beginning, programs were placed on hold, and worship moved online.
“In the midst of the pandemic there was a lot of shifting,” Floyd recalled. “As we’re getting back, we’re looking at ways we can be more involved. Let’s not just study the Bible. Let’s do something about it.”
For instance, when the church’s longstanding food bank was threatened by COVID, FUMC Bay City found a safer way to continue meeting the need. A shift was made to food vouchers, which required fewer volunteers and were simpler to distribute. The vouchers made it possible for clients to shop for the food that they preferred.
Last Christmas, because the pandemic placed the traditional Matagorda County Christmas Food Box Drive on hold, FUMC Bay City tried to distribute the food vouchers instead. While they had been popular at the food bank, the holiday drive was lackluster, Floyd explained.
Fewer attended the event. “What happened here? And how can we change?” Floyd asked.
First, he realized that in the past, people signed up for the Christmas event during a community Thanksgiving, which had also been canceled. Another obstacle, the pastor realized, was that there was another giveaway at the same time, Toys for Tots.
“We scratched our heads,” Floyd said. Soon church leaders decided it would make more sense to join forces with Toys for Tots.
“We kind of looked at each other and there was this realization,” Floyd recalled. “Why don’t we do it together?”
This year, the two events will be combined for the first time. “We’re making sure everyone has a meal for Christmas – and the kids will have a gift or two as well,” Floyd said. “It’s a collaborative effort – Toys for Tots, the Marines, the Police Department and the church. And that’s really good.”
A similar cooperative spirit has been at work in the church’s food bank, the pastor added. “We started talking with a couple of other churches,” he said. “We were all hitting pretty much the same population.”
Now, the area congregations are coming together, including a Church of Christ, two Baptist churches and a Presbyterian church. They will have a joint food bank starting in January at a site about 5 miles from FUMC Bay City.
A groundbreaking for a new building to house the combined food bank is also being planned. In the meantime, FUMC Bay City will continue their food pantry at the church to ensure there are no gaps in service.
“Together we can do more than we can do apart,” Floyd said. “We want our resources to go further. There are plenty of people who need to learn about Jesus, and they need to see the love of Jesus in action as well.”
Pooling resources and moving the food bank off site will open up FUMC Bay City to new opportunities, Floyd said. “That’s the direction we were moving in already,” Floyd said. “I think of it as investing in our community.”
And this change helps diversify the church’s investments, he added. “We can do more and reach further into the community.”
COVID prompted FUMC Bay City to try new things, adjust and to make changes, Floyd explained.
“It’s easy to look at the negative,” he said. Instead, he looks to scripture, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”
As Methodists, Floyd said, we must ask, how do we make the best out of the situation, even when given a pile of lemons. “God doesn’t force you to make lemonade. That’s up to you.” He said. “God doesn’t make us do it, but He gives us the opportunity.”
Being flexible has allowed the church to continue its missions and ministry. “Our goal is to be and to make disciples,” Floyd said. “We have to continue that in a new way. And the momentum is building.”