Milton Barta was second in line as he waited in his pickup truck Wednesday morning. He lives alone and does not cook, so having a place like Christ’s Kitchen to go three to four times each week for meals is a godsend.

“It means a lot to me, as it does to everyone who comes here,” Barta said.

Methodist Healthcare Ministries, a faith-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to creating access to health care for low-income families and the uninsured, presented donations to two Crossroads nonprofit organizations on Wednesday at Christ’s Kitchen, a Victoria soup kitchen.

Christ’s Kitchen received $40,000 and the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent received $100,000. The grants will help with response and recovery efforts after winter storms left thousands without power, water and food.

Jordana Barton, vice president of community investments for Methodist Healthcare Ministries, said they learned firsthand about the two organizations’ needs from community members Kathy Frels, a Wesley nurse, and the Rev. Wade Powell, pastor for First United Methodist Church in Victoria.

“We want to meet the immediate needs and emergencies and, at the same time, create resilient communities that have the infrastructure to break barriers to upward mobility,” Barton said. “This is not just a one-time thing, but a more comprehensive approach to the communities we serve.”

The funds allocated are part of a $4.5-million investment Methodist Healthcare Ministries has made to help South Texas recover from February’s severe winter storms. To date, more than $2.3 million has been donated to organizations across Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ 74-county service area, according to a news release.

The food bank will use the money to purchase food to support the communities it serves. The winter storm compounded the need for food, a need that was already present in the midst of the pandemic.

“Any donation we get is extremely important to continue our mission. We run off of donations, like Christ’s Kitchen, so this keeps us moving forward and staying nimble and doing what we do in our mission to heal the hurt of hunger,” said Robin Cadle, president and CEO of the food bank. “Donations are critical. Food is not cheap. We need supplies and a small staff, and trucks don’t run unless they have gasoline.”

In January, the food bank distributed 400,000 pounds of food even though the organization was closed for a week because staff members had COVID-19. In February, the nonprofit distributed twice as much — 800,000 pounds of food. They were not open during the week of the freeze, but some staff members were able to make it to work, and they continued their mobile food distributions.

Cadle will be glad to have more space when the new building is complete, which she hopes will be in July or August. Right now, because of limited space, the nonprofit runs trucks at night to keep food cold. She said that she hopes to move into the building by September — if there are not any hurricanes.

Trish Hastings, executive director of Christ’s Kitchen, said the grant will be used to purchase a generator that will keep operations moving when there is a catastrophe.

“When disaster hits and our power goes out, we don’t have access to our frozen food or our perishable produce,” Hastings said.

Hastings said churches really stepped up to help during the freeze.

“You just wouldn’t believe how God worked to provide during that time. It was so amazing to watch,” Hastings said. “And he’s still providing. Look at this generous check, and God willing, we’ll continue for another 35 years.”

During the height of the pandemic, Christ’s Kitchen served 900 to 1,000 people each day. Since people have started receiving stimulus checks and tax refunds, the numbers have dropped to 500 to 600 per day. Hastings’ hope and prayer is that fewer people will need help as they get back to work. Her goal is to get back to normal, serving 300 people indoors rather than in cars, by July.

“People need community and not just a drive-by community,” she said. “They need to be with each other. They are lonely, so we hope to open by July.”

Frels and Powell were glad to submit the applications for the grants for the two nonprofits.

“Both were blessed with funding through our mission of serving humanity to honor God, serving the underserved and underinsured,” Frels said. “It’s important because so many people are in need in our community right now. They have suffered through COVID-19 and a winter freeze, and they have utility bills and less food on the table. A lot of families have struggled through both crises, and our hearts are full to be able to bless the underserved people, to take care of their needs.”

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Elena Anita Watts covers arts, culture and entertainment for the Victoria Advocate. 

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