Some 800K pounds of food distributed at Houston area church since April

By Lindsay Peyton

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic may have caused most outreach efforts to grind to a halt – but not at the Windsor Village Church Family (WVCF), a 15,000-member congregation in Houston. Instead, the church saw an opportunity to help even more people at a time when the need was even greatest.

Drivers start lining up early for the Windsor Village Food Bank, before operations even begin. “We’ve had cars line up as early as 7 a.m. and lines as long as 2 or 3 miles,” Millicent Haynes, Windsor Village Council on Ministries Chairperson and Director of Ministries, said.

She heads the Food Bank operation with her husband Fabian Haynes. Seeing families arrive, week after week, to pick up food during the pandemic lets the couple know that the church is on the right track, that being the hands and feet of Christ currently means feeding families.

“It definitely keeps you going,” Haynes said. “For us as believers, it’s about not being hearers of the word but doers of the word. We take that very seriously at Windsor Village.”

She explained that not long after COVID-19 began, the church discovered an opportunity to partner with the Houston Food Bank, and the City of Houston to provide nonperishables, meat and produce to families in a historically underserved area of central Southwest Houston.

The leadership team at WVCH was well aware of the urgent need for food during the pandemic. “We quickly swung into action,” Haynes said. “We wanted to be part of the solution. We made the decision to move forward as a temporary food bank, and we are committed to the process until COVID ends. And we’re committed to do it rain or shine.”

Church staff completed training, and Haynes signed up to oversee the project. “Millicent took on the role and that was not part of her normal responsibilities,” Al Scarbrough, Chief Administrative Officer at Windsor Village, explained.

In late April 2020, the Windsor Village Food Bank launched. Since then, the distribution takes place every Thursday, from noon to about 3 p.m. at the Power Center, a former Kmart store that the church transformed into a multi-use community center.

Haynes explained that volunteers begin working on the Food Bank on Wednesdays, preparing bags of dry and canned goods. Each week at least 750 bags are filled.

Then, on Thursday, volunteers show up around 7:30 a.m. to greet the truck from the Houston Food Bank, brimming with fresh produce and refrigerated meat and dairy items. Sometimes, the donation includes cleaning products as well.

From the time the truck leaves the parking lot, volunteers divide the donations into additional 1,500 bags. When the guests arrive at noon, they will each receive at least three bags of food and supplies. Haynes said about 60 volunteers are required for each operation, and there are also five Windsor Village staff members involved as well.

All of the volunteers wear masks and gloves. They also have their temperatures checked before working. In addition to putting food in vehicles, volunteers sign up to load and lift, sort and sack, control traffic, conduct inventory and reporting, ensure social distance monitoring and manage waste.

About 700 families are served at the Windsor Village Food Bank each week. Additionally, the service recently expanded to include food package delivery to 300 homeless individuals.

Because of the Windsor Village Food Bank’ success, the Houston Food Bank changed its status from a temporary distribution site to a permanent one.

Haynes said that with so many people out of work due to the pandemic, the demand for food has only risen. The need also increased every time there is another disaster, she added.

For example, when Hurricane Laura hit Lake Charles, the WVCF sent a donation of $100,000 and an 18-wheeler truck filled with food, water and baby supplies.

Then, with the winter storm in Houston, the Windsor Village Food Bank included bottles of water in the bags of donations for each guest. The church also provided funds for disaster relief. “We recognized that the citizens of Houston are in great need,” Haynes said. “People have water damage, pipes bursting. They’re still trying to source water.”

Already, the WVCF has distributed more than 800,000 pounds of food. Haynes said that the church has been able to help the Houston Food Bank expand its footprint and reach more individuals.

“We had the space and the equipment at The Power Center,” she added. “And that was a blessing. It ended up being a win-win situation.”

For the church, Haynes explained, providing food to the community gave members a chance to serve others and also to stay connected. “Our congregation hasn’t resumed meeting in-person for worship,” Haynes said. “This becomes a new way of worship through service.”

She refers to scripture: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

Distributing food is about spreading love, Haynes explained. “That’s very simple,” she said. “It’s not hard. It’s one of the most basic things you can do – just showing compassion for one another.”

Helping feed families in need was an easy decision for the WVCF, added. “It’s the Lord’s work,” she said. “It’s what Christ calls us to do, and we’re in it for the long-haul.”

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