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SUNDAY: Pastors Coalitions to serve 2,500 in drive-thru event

BY BROOKE R. CANTRELLE

L’OBSERVATEUR

 

PASTORS: Primoris Electrical Services contributes trimmings

 

LAPLACE — Over the past two years, local church leaders in the St. John Pastors Coalition have fed thousands of residents while spreading seasonal goodwill through a Community Thanksgiving Celebration.

This year will be no exception. With a community need heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent work layoffs, the faith community is uniting to ensure 2,500 St. John the Baptist Parish families have a wonderful meal to enjoy for Thanksgiving.

While previous events have been sit-down dinners, this year’s Community Thanksgiving Celebration will be held in a drive-thru format from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22 outside of the New Wine Christian Fellowship Gymnasium. A West Bank distribution will be held at New Jerusalem Baptist Church, 152 E. Sixth St. in Edgard.

The 2,500 meals will be distributed in Thanksgiving baskets complete with a whole chicken, stovetop stuffing, green beans and sweet potatoes.

New Wine Christian Fellowship Pastor Neil Bernard watched last week as police officers directed traffic during a regularly scheduled food distribution, which became a dry run for coordinating how many cars fit into the New Wine parking lot. By organizing a second drive thru lane, he hopes to limit the back up of cars onto Airline Highway.

Bernard determined it is possible to serve 900 cars in approximately three hours.

“As a Second Harvest partner, we’ve been doing weekly food giveaways. Every giveaway, we’ve been having more and more vehicles. Last week, we set a record of 922 vehicles in one day that drove through, and this morning, it was even more. They were all the way down the road to Reserve,” Bernard said last week. “We know that the Shell Convent plant just closed, and 700 employees are going to be out of work. There are a lot of people right now who are needy in our community, and therefore we want to look at how, as a Pastor’s Coalition, we can serve them.”

Bernard said the Pastors Coalition is blessed to coordinate the third annual celebration, especially since COVID-19 has stolen so much normalcy from this year.

While the original goal was to serve 2,000 baskets this year, that number increased to 2,500 with help from church leaders and a generous donation from new community partner Primoris Electrical Services, also known as PSC.

PSC has already donated an entire truckload of Thanksgiving trimmings, according to Pastor Donald August of Rising Star Baptist Church in LaPlace.

“A lot of the contractors have been working at Valero in Norco, and they say everywhere they work, they try to integrate into the community working with different organizations to be able to do something positive,” August said. “I was able to meet with them and tell them about the Pastor’s Coalition and the Thanksgiving meal that we do, and they got excited.”

August expects the Pastors Coalition and PSC will foster a strong partnership.

Expenses for providing food for 2,500 families amount to well over $13,000. Other generous community partners include Denka, Marathon Petroleum, District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut and Councilwoman Tammy Houston. Winn-Dixie is graciously providing the chickens for each basket since it was not possible to attain 2,500 turkeys at this time.

Local churches are also contributing finances to make this event possible. New Wine Christian Fellowship, Celebration Church, Beech Grove Baptist Church, Rising Star Baptist Church, Champion Church, Destiny Christian Center, New Jerusalem Baptist Church, First Baptist Church in LaPlace, River City Church, Providence Baptist Church, Beacon Light of LaPlace, Spirit of Liberty Church and Victorious Life Family Worship Center were among the churches involved in the planning.

As cars pull up in line for the Thanksgiving Celebration, the Pastors Coalition will assign a hospitality team to greet the community members and pray for them. They were inspired by a recent hurricane relief trip to Lake Charles in which a local faith organization distributed cards stating, “God loves you, and so do we.”

“It’s a way of letting them know we are thinking about them during this time,” Bernard said.

New pastor Shane Newton of First Baptist Church in LaPlace said he is excited to join the effort for the first time this year and assist in giving back to the community.

Cawanda Thomas, sitting in on behalf of Apostle Renita Graber of Victorious Life Family Worship Center during a recent planning meeting, said it is special to see children of God work together.

“It’s always a blessing to be able to do what God has called us to do, and that mandate is to serve God’s people,” Thomas said. “It’s always an honor to be a part of that. I was able to be here last year as a helping hand, and it was such an honor. It’s always great when God’s people can come together on one accord. We are many members, but we are one body.”