A stream of cars and trucks streamed into the parking lot of Cleburne’s Bethel Temple Assembly of God parking lot Friday morning where church officials and members greeted the passengers and loaded boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables into their vehicles.
“At a lot of food banks you get Ramen Noodles and other nonperishable items,” Bethel Temple Pastor Mike Mizell said. “That’s great and a big help. But for us to be able to offer free fresh fruits and vegetables is an incredible opportunity and blessing.”
The giveaway is part of the COVID-19 response on the part of the Farmers To Families Program through the USDA, Mizell said.
“Convoy of Hope, they’re a global relief agency, is one of the partner agencies we work with a lot,” Mizell said. “They contacted me about us being able to give out local produce and dairy products to our community. We’ve been doing other giveaways and programs over the last few months so I thought, ‘Man, this is right up our alley.’”
Delivery trucks made two drops Friday morning bringing a total of 1,000 boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to the church.
“Each box is 18 to 20 pounds,” Mizell said. “In the boxes are cucumbers, lettuce, squash, strawberries, apples, oranges, onions, carrots and broccoli. Each pallet you see there has 50 boxes on it.”
Traffic through the church’s lot remained steady.
“We put word out we were going to start at noon but people started lining up around 11:30 a.m. so we just started distributing the boxes,” Mizell said. “We have another truck on the way. But we had 600 boxes dropped off in the first delivery and you can see we’ve given away quite a bit already. Basically our members just direct the cars to where other members are with the boxes and we’ll put them in their car or trunk for them.”
Other church members and officials manned a table filled with free loaves of bread and hamburger and hotdog buns.
“Our hope is that this is something that will help people in the middle of all this COVID-19 chaos,” Mizell said.
Mizell credited his fellow staff members and especially the members and volunteers of the church.
“We have about 700 members,” Mizell said. “We’re made up of all varieties, all flavors. We just enjoy one another and enjoy ministry. July coming up we’ll be celebrating our 27th year here.”
Outreach and ministry play large roles at Bethel Temple, Mizell said.
“Back in the 1990s we had concerts here pretty often and we’d draw more than 1,000 people,” Mizell said. “We still present four dramas a year, which are popular and our way of using theater to communicate the message of Christ. But especially now with all the stress of this and so many in need to see so many of our members stepping up to help others out.”
Alvarado Mayor Tom Durington, a church member, agreed.
“I heard we were doing this and wanted to come out and volunteer to help,” Durington said. “I think this is great and I’m happy we can do this for people.”
Bethel Temple Staff Pastor Brent Shields felt much the same.
“For me it’s important to show our community that we’re here for them and we care in good times and bad times,” Shields said. “But with the situation going on now this is a time when we all kind of need each other and that’s why it’s so important and a privilege for us to be here for the community now.”
Church member Derek Brewer spent the morning loading boxes into vehicles.
“Here’s the deal,” Brewer said. “Everybody has been affected by COVID-19 in some way. It takes a community to take care of each other. And if the church doesn’t do anything, well, we need to be the first people to step up and help out.
“To me, serving is a great thing to do because you get to see that joy in people’s faces when you help somebody else out. That can be something big; it can be something small. The important thing is helping out and trying to make a difference.”
The joy of helping flows both ways, Brewer said.
“Yes sir,” Brewer said. “This is rewarding for us. It also becomes a trickle effect. When you help someone out you see how now they want to go help someone else out because they’ve been blessed and it becomes contagious to want to pass that on.”
Friday’s steady traffic aside, Mizell said the goal is outreach beyond Cleburne.
“Since this is the first time doing this here we don’t yet know what the need is in Cleburne,” Mizell said. “That’s why we’ve also reached out to other area communities. We’ve talked to Alvarado, Godley, Blum, Glen Rose and others. That’s one of the things we want to do is resource our area in addition to the city.”
More is to come.
“Our goal is to do this about every two weeks until supply runs out or the need is not here anymore,” Mizell said. “What I think is exciting is the boxes will be different each time. The boxes today don’t have any dairy but next time they will, some cheese, butter and milk and then some other things like cantaloupe and honey dew melons.
“I like that we’re able to offer some variety through this and, we hope, help people out.”