By Natalie Romero
In the months since the spread of COVID-19, families in the Southeastern California Conference have struggled with needs like food, rent, and childcare. Church-run distribution centers have become more important than ever, serving their neighbors facing hardship.
Outreaches like those operated by the Valley Fellowship church in Rialto have become an important point of contact with community members.
“We are feeding more people than we did before, and the number is growing,” said Baron Sovory, Valley Fellowship church pastor, of their expanding food distribution. Sovory had just begun his ministry at the church a few weeks prior to the spread of the virus and had no clue that the pandemic was about to put his church front and center.
“I was still brand new!” Sovory recalled. “Though we pray and hope the pandemic will end soon, this season has been an unexpected opportunity to do ministry and build relationships.”
“We are feeding more people than we did before, and the number is growing.”
Similarly, the Inland Empire Filipino church has seen an increase in the basic needs of their community. Volunteers used to serve food to approximately 50 homeless people a week. Over the past few months that has changed. Explained Algier Ravelo, senior pastor of the church, “We have food distribution every Tuesday and Thursday, serving 100 to 200 people.” Most come to gather food for their families, in households where they no longer have employment. The church also regularly receives donations of used clothing, household items, and even cash that they can pass on to those who are struggling. “Lately,” Ravelo recalled, “we received a donation of a motorized wheelchair.”
Like their neighbors in Rialto and Redlands, members of the San Bernardino Community church have doubled their food bank efforts. The church has been able to provide disadvantaged families with temporary housing, and “our food bank is now open three days a week. On average each week we feed over 600 families,” said Jerrold Thompson, pastor of the church. In spite of the challenges presented, the congregation’s volunteers are not giving up. “What we are doing is a must,” Thompson emphasized.
Moving forward, all three churches are aiming for further expansion of aid. As Sovory explained, “Food is the start, but not the finish.” Valley Fellowship is partnering with Loma Linda University for community health initiatives, while San Bernardino Community recently launched an outdoor church service on Sabbath evenings. “There are a lot of people who need help, and God also has a lot of resources,” Ravelo shared. “We have many challenges. But we’re all blessed.”