RICHMOND, Va. -- Volunteers transformed Branch’s Baptist Church on Broad Rock Boulevard into a workshop on Thanksgiving morning.
Oscar Contreras, a deacon at the Southside church, helped lead the congregation packing up food for Richmond families in need.
“It’s been seven years and we’ve been able to keep it up. A lot of people have now taken this as a tradition to come and volunteer, so that’s great,” Contreras explained.
The organizers spent months gathering donated food from the community and parishioners. During a non-pandemic year, hundreds of volunteers would show up to prepare and cook Thanksgiving dinner.
Instead, COVID-19 forced them to limit the number of people inside the church.
Wayne Faust spent his Thanksgiving volunteering with strangers. The North Carolina native reached out to Feedmore Food Bank, which linked him with Branch’s Baptist Church.
“I can’t go home to visit family because of the virus. I figured instead of sitting at home alone, I’d come out and try to help the community a little bit,” Faust said.
The church’s goodwill took them to the Southwood Apartments, a predominately Spanish-speaking neighborhood.
The pandemic has been particularly destructive to the Hispanic community. Their unemployment rate peaked at 18 percent in April, according to jobs data.
Leading health experts say Latinx individuals are hospitalized from the coronavirus four-times the rate of white Americans.
Letitia Manuel and her family went door to door in the Southwood community bringing along bags of canned food and rotisserie chicken.
“It was one woman she came to the door. She was so ecstatic that we came and she had six children,” Manuel recalled. “She was overjoyed to know that someone was able to come and bring her a meal.”
But, food scarcity has hit all races and backgrounds during the pandemic. Families are seeking help from food banks and church now more than ever.
The congregation also delivered food to families in Rudd’s Trailer Park on the Jefferson Davis Highway and brought donated Popeyes chicken to Monarch Woods Assisted Living on Jahnke Road.
Josi Aguilu, a deacon with Branch’s Baptist Church, said their calling to do good comes from a higher power.
“Jesus asked for us to come over here and blessing people. That’s what we got to do,” he stated.