Our Mother of Mercy Parish serves 250 families in food drive partnership

North Texas Catholic
(Jun 28, 2024) Local

Linda Moore-Evans thanks God after Keyanna Johnson loads food in her car as volunteers from Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church, the Chris Howell Foundation and elsewhere distribute about 20,000 pounds of fresh and shelf stable food at Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church, Saturday, June 22, 2024. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

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FORT WORTH — On Saturday, June 22, Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth partnered with the Chris Howell Foundation to host a drive-through food distribution. The partnership provided 250 families with groceries in only three hours.

Parish council president La’Wonda Peoples, who also serves as a lector and member of Our Mother of Mercy's hospitality ministry, volunteers with the Chris Howell Foundation. Peoples arranged for the partnership that brought in 45 volunteers to the church at sunrise. Parishioners, including the Knights of Peter Claver and St. Vincent de Paul volunteers; members of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement from Our Lady of Fatima Parish; Forest Hill Mayor Stephanie Boardingham; and a group called "Road Nurse Divas" — a motorcycle riding club for nurses — all attended to assist the distribution. Many of all ages came with the Chris Howell Foundation.

"I just mentioned it to our Deacon [Tom Giovannitti], who is our pastoral administrator, and the rest of the committee, and we agreed that it would be a great opportunity for us to facilitate that outreach that we were seeking," Peoples said. "This will actually be our very first one at the church. And we're really excited about being able to serve the community in this way. The area that we're in, the zip code that we're in, 76104, is considered to be the most food deprived area in the state of Texas. So we try to do what we can."

Our Mother of Mercy announced the distribution so thoroughly in advance that by Saturday morning, cars were lined up long down the block well before starting. Many did not speak English. Some were collecting for other family members. Some didn't have air-conditioned cars while a few rolled through in luxury vehicles. To the volunteers, it didn't matter. In the sun and heat, everyone kept moving in good spirits with the help of DJ Amigo Harris' classic dance songs.

Parishioner of 40 years and Knights of Peter Claver member Guillermo Barrera spent the morning filling bags with groceries. "As much as possible, my wife and I volunteer," he said of his 26 years with the Knights. "God is good and God blesses us as an organization and blesses us personally and we want to pass that blessing on to others. It's an enjoyable thing to share the blessings from God."

Man loads box of food into car
Jayden Peoples loads a box of food into a car with other volunteers from Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church, Saturday, June 22, 2024. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

Kay Norvel and Cynthia Sanford, Our Mother of Mercy parishioners for over 40 years, have also been volunteering weekly with St. Vincent de Paul for a combined 35 years. "I just want people to see the face of God," Sanford said. "There are people out here who aren't judging them, no matter what they need. Somebody's here to give it to them."

"We help people and we don't judge," Norvel said. "We're here to help. We just want people to make sure that their needs are met. A lot of people – we ask them to pray for us and we pray for them. Times are hard and we're here."

While the Chris Howell Foundation's HIV/AIDS outreach does not adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church, it shares a mission to feed the hungry and offers classes on financial literacy with the aim of eliminating poverty through teaching self-sufficiency.

"Ultimately, we want to meet folks in the food line, but ... we don't want to see the same people coming through the line all the time," Chris Howell stated. "We understand that this is a supplement ..., but we don't want this to be a frequent flyer program. But we can put you into resources that will at some point put you to where you don't need our food program. You're maybe at some point where you could be a donor to our organization or others."

Both Peoples and Howell expressed gratitude to partner and hope for future events.

"We're certainly pleased to partner with Our Mother of Mercy," Howell said. "We hope we're able to do it again. And these volunteers — we can't say 'thank you' enough. The summertime is extremely difficult. Most folks see volunteerism go down in the summer, and that's when we need it most. We're grateful to every volunteer that came out and served today and we really hope that they find pleasure in being able to serve with us today."

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