Driving up to CityLight Church in Toledo, the first thing you might notice is the baptismal tank in the front of the building. It’s not part of a new social-distancing baptism scheme, but part of CityLight’s response to the needs the coronavirus pandemic has created.

CityLight isn’t a huge church, but as soon as they realized what was going to happen because of the coronavirus restrictions and orders, they knew their community would get hit hard. They also knew that they would do everything they could to help.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, CityLight has focused on helping their local food pantries scale up to meet the growing demand. They even partnered with a local farm ministry that delivers farm goods to food pantries and ministries.

With the number of clients they serve doubling every week, they have struggled to keep up with the demand.

The biggest problem is the supply chain. Pastor George Williams shared one example: Milk manufacturers meant to fill half-pint cartons for school kids suddenly do not have a market, while the demand for full gallons is skyrocketing. The manufacturers aren’t set up to fill the gallons, but they don’t have buyers for half-pints anymore.

“It’s not that we don’t have enough, but that everything’s jumbled up.”

To help sort through the jumble, volunteers make phone calls and get creative to find new sources. Some of those creative sources include restaurant suppliers who have suddenly lost a lot of buyers.

With in-person services suspended, CityLight has transformed its sanctuary into a resource distribution center.

They collect pallets of food, and, yes, milk. As of the beginning of April, they had distributed 12 pallets of food, and over 300 gallons of milk.

Their commercial suppliers come in with semi-trucks of food that CityLight buys discounted with cash donations.

Local individuals and families drive up to the baptismal tank and drop off food or other resources without getting out of their vehicles.

Volunteers wearing facemasks and gloves sort the donations inside the sanctuary on spaced out tables. Then they pack them into boxes for home delivers and pallets for food pantries.

Sometimes individuals call in for help, and a member of the volunteer team will go shopping for their specific needs using donated cash.

They have also partnered with other local ministries, including a pregnancy center. For new moms, for example, they might put together a care package from the pregnancy center, go shopping for groceries, and then deliver the goods to her porch.

Their partnerships don’t end there. A local Christian radio station does advertisements for them, while another local business with empty warehouses has loaned their storage units. Locals with trucks help with deliveries. A mom and pop trailer shop with available forklifts will be helping unload an order for 40,000 pounds of food.

They use a local network of pastors called Merge to communicate needs, while CityLight is the main driver on gathering resources. Their pastor network also finds and connects with local food pantries. They keep in contact with the running list of 15 food pantries for locations and specific needs – like milk or cardboard boxes.

“One of the beautiful things about Toledo is the pastors have worked really hard to stay connected and get unified. The pastors’ network has put out the word.”

What You Can Do

  • Help your local food pantry get what they need! They have the connections to the needy community, but are often lacking in resources.
    • Individually or in groups, call them up and ask them what they need. Sometimes it’s a particular food or other items such as boxes.
    • If you have a truck or other large vehicle, see if they need help with deliveries, or collecting resources.
  • Pastors – Ask your congregation! More often than not, they want to help, but don’t know how.
    • Even the home-bound can make phone calls to restaurant suppliers, and distribution centers.
    • If you have an empty sanctuary or gym, you could turn into a resource distribution center.
    • Pastor George also says to celebrate it and take lots of pictures!
  • CityLight can always use donations at 201 E. Alexis Rd, Toledo (the drop off is conveniently open 24-hours).
    • They need to source fresh fruits, veggies, and meat. Donated or greatly discounted are both appreciated.
    • People with trucks can deliver pallets.
    • You can also donate online.

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