Photo: Sandy Wainright, Pastor at Heaven Sent Outreach Ministries,directs volunteers at the Calvary Community Outreach distribution.
Community Partners Help Families go Back to School
Photos and story by Heather Wimmer
Approximately 300 families received help with food and back-to-school supplies at an event at Calvary Community Wellness Center in the midtown area on Thursday, August 27. Many local organizations banded together to give aid to people in need. Calvary Community Outreach Network executive director Reverend Eric Williams says they started trying to feed people in March “with just a box of macaroni and cheese and a can of Spam.” They reached out for help from several other organizations and have given aid to roughly 16,000 people since their start with weekly food distributions. This event on Thursday was a highlight of the service this coalition has been giving.
The first thing you noticed was the traffic jam. Cars lined up and blocked traffic all along 31st street and turning onto Holmes from every direction at 3 pm on Thursday. KCPD officers graciously showed up to direct the traffic. Pastor Sandy Wainright, director of Calvary Community Outreach Network (CCON), pulled together efforts of volunteers from many organizations to distribute food and back-to-school supplies to families impacted by the pandemic. Reverend Williams was amazed. “We haven’t seen people come together like this since Hurricane Katrina. It’s a beautiful thing.”
At least 300 families lined up to receive drive through assistance of meals, groceries, hygiene items, hand sanitizer, masks, and backpacks filled with school supplies. One car was driven by a mom with two kids and a big fluffy dog. She said she had been laid off in March and the distributions had helped her make it several times. Her kids were starting kindergarten and third grade. Another car held a young father with his grandmother. The dad was getting ready to welcome a second baby and had also lost his job due to COVID layoffs. Each car held families with similar stories. As they drove through the line, masked volunteers passed items tailored to their needs through their car windows or put them in open trunks.
Nefertari Hill, of Aim4Peace KC and Kansas City Violence and Trauma Response Network, explained how the event came together. She partners with CCON and the Concerned Clergy Coalition, and they had discussed the increased need they saw from the pandemic. They didn’t have a lot of resources, so they decided to seek help through other organizations. Harvesters generously donated food. Catholic Charities stepped up with hand sanitizer. Eric Bunch, 4th ward city council provided containers for the hand sanitizer. Aim4Peace had masks made by volunteers from across the metro area. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased backpacks and school supplies through a special grant just for this event. Volunteers came from all these organizations as well as Westside Community Action Network, Troost Market Collective, After the Harvest and even a few corporate volunteers including Cerner who showed up with paid time off for community service. In all, there were 19 organizations involved in this outreach.
The event gave hope for the week to those who received fresh produce, meals and goods. It also gave hope for the future of Kansas City to experience so many organizations acting on common goals to serve people in need.