‘An opportunity to be a blessing:’ St. Luke Missionary Baptist hosting COVID-19 relief program
SALISBURY — For as far as the eye could see in either direction, cars lined both sides of Hawkinstown Road near St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday morning.
A line of people stretching from the church through the parking lot were waiting for their turn to enter the fellowship hall. The line had started to form around 4 a.m. that morning. Most of the early arrivals had already left by lunchtime, but more people had come to take their place in the queue.
Hundreds of people from several counties were there for food supplies and a chance to receive up to $800 in financial aid from a COVID-19 relief program that St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church is running in conjunction with Brutonville Concerned Citizens.
The program is one of several similar ones that have been run at various sites throughout nearby counties. The funding for the program, Fairley said, originated from the CARES Act and was funneled down from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to Brutonville Concerned Citizens, a nonprofit located in Montgomery County.
The St. Luke site opened last week and will remain open every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. through March.
“It’s open to anybody who has been impacted by COVID-19,” St. Luke Pastor Marcus Fairley said. “If you have a positive COVID-19 test, bring it with you. If you’ve had to quarantine from work, or someone in your immediate family has COVID-19 and you had to quarantine from work or someone in your immediate family has had COVID-19 and you have to quarantine, you qualify by virtue of having to quarantine.”
Fairley said St. Luke was selected as a site due to his friendship with Jamie Ewings, who said that she is subcontracted by Brutonville Concerned Citizens to help with the program.
To be eligible, Fairley said, you must be a resident of Rowan, Stanly or Montgomery Counties, must have a valid ID proving place of residence and must be able to provide a COVID-19 positive test result.
Fairley said every person who visits the church will receive a box of food and personal protective equipment and will also be able to apply for financial assistance. The food boxes include canned goods like beans and corn as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. No money is given out at the church, but a check will be mailed to the person’s home address in 4-6 weeks.
On the first day of the program, Fairley said that 325 people filled out an application for financial aid at the church. When the program reopened on Tuesday, even more people showed up.
“We serviced 520 people on Tuesday,” Fairley said.
Most people found out about the program through word of mouth or the church’s Facebook page, Fairley said.
The overwhelming number of people who have flocked to the church indicates a great need in the community, Fairley said.
“We were expecting a lot of people. What my surprise is that this says poverty,” Fairley said. “People wouldn’t stand in line like this if they didn’t need help. We’ve got a problem in America and we need to address poverty.”
A staff of about 15 people, made up of St. Luke church members and members of Brutonville Concerned Citizens, is handing out food, answering the phones and helping people through the financial aid application process.
“It’s a blessing when we go home at night,” Fairley said. “We’re tired when we leave here. We pray at the beginning of the day and when we leave as a group. We realize that it’s an opportunity to be a blessing and to help these people.”
People with disabilities and special needs can call to schedule an appointment to visit the church to avoid the line, Fairley said.
In order to ensure the safety of those working, Fairley said, St. Luke is only allowing a few people into the building to fill out an application at one time. That has led to longer wait times, but Fairley said that he asks people to be patient.
Since the program is only a week old, Fairley said workers are still sorting through the kinks, including the parking situation.
The church’s two parking lots are not adequate to accommodate the number of cars, so people have taken to parking on the shoulder of Hawkinstown Road. Fairley said workers have tried to alert neighbors to what’s going and that people should avoid parking on front lawns and in front of driveways.
“We’re servicing everyone the best we know how,” Fairley said. “As we develop the program out, we’re doing more.”
Fairley said he has requested the presence of law enforcement to ensure order and is expecting Salisbury Police to help with traffic starting on Tuesday.
It is asked that people who visit the church park completely on the shoulder of the road and do not loiter in the streets. Carpooling among family members who have already been in contact with each other is encouraged as well.
Fairley said that the church is looking for more community sponsors, particularly grocers who would be able to donate any food supplies.
For more information about the program, call St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church at 704-636-8947.
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