“We actually started half an hour early because so many cars were lined up we were about to block Krome Avenue,” Senior Pastor Howard Harden said of their first food distribution in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Dozens of volunteers were on hand at First Baptist Church of Homestead for Saturday, April 25, 2020 as one of multiple area distribution events. With 1,000 bags containing rice, corn, zucchini, squash, green beans, bananas,
cucumbers, potatoes, and onions, even more volunteers had worked for days to procure and pack the bags. Interestingly, approximately half the goods were purchased from contacts in Immokalee. They sourced as much as possible locally, but with as many events as are being held each week by different organizations, community farmers couldn’t meet the total demand.
“We’ve taken lessons from others we’ve seen, added some things, and it’s been running pretty well,” the pastor said as cars pulled through. An innovation was instructions being broadcast in English and Spanish on FM 94.7 on a loop. First Baptist, like other churches have turned to live streaming, recorded sermons, and similar techniques until such time as sanctuaries are open.
Pastor Harden explained about their “drive-in” option. “As for the FM transmitter, we bought it as soon as it was clear we would not be able to meet in our sanctuary for awhile. It just seemed like a drive-in service was a safe,
social distancing way to ‘meet.’ I’m old enough that I remember going to drive-in theaters when I was a kid, so I guess that’s where I got the idea. But a lot of other churches apparently think the same way because I have pastor-friends in other states who did the same.”
For the Sunday 6:30 p.m., drive-in service, cars park in the field behind the church and tune in for the broadcast.
Since they were already using FM 94.7, Pastor Harden came up with the idea of creating the loop for the instructions for Saturday. As with most distributions, this was an open trunk, drive-through process. Volunteers checked with each vehicle to see how many bags were needed, wrote the number on a paper to give the driver and verified the number with the volunteer keeping careful count.
“At first we were providing one bag per person in the vehicle,” Pastor Harden said. “Then as the initial rush was over, we moved to asking how many members there were in each family and gave one bag per member.”