ORANGE PARK – The first group of cars arrived at the First Baptist Church of Orange Park at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 17 – more than 90 minutes before volunteers handed out nearly 1,000 boxes of food to …
ORANGE PARK – The first group of cars arrived at the First Baptist Church of Orange Park at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 17 – more than 90 minutes before volunteers handed out nearly 1,000 boxes of food to residents as part of the USDA’s Farmers to Families food drive.
Each gift weighed 40 pounds and included two gallons of milk, potatoes, onions, cottage cheese, two meats, apples and a variety of other perishable goods to help a community in need.
“What we didn’t give away, we saved for [this] Saturday,” said Senior Pastor David Tarkington. “We expect a lot more people next week.”
There was some hesitation since the first delivery of food scheduled for Oct. 10 was delayed. But there were pallets filled with fresh fruits, vegetables and meat last week, and the church will continue to distribute food during the next two Saturdays.
“We’re under some very unique circumstances,” Tarkington said. “The Florida Baptist Convention was asked by the governor [Ron DeSantis] to help. They wanted to provide something with no questions asked.”
Traffic was routed through the church parking lot, around the building and to a loading area behind the church. Everyone was greeted with a smile and asked how many boxes of food they needed. Volunteers then loaded cold milk at the first stop, then two filled boxes at the second. Residents then were offered a chance to pray with a volunteer before leaving the parking lot.
“There was a station set up for folks who wanted to pray during this time,” Tarkington said. “People are dealing with a lot of loneliness, a lot of depression and doubt at this time. About 40 cars pulled over. They just wanted the opportunity to just talk with people and find some comfort.
“This was about more than food.”
The church will start distributing food at 9 a.m. on the next two Saturdays and plan to be finished by noon.
“You need to get there early because once the food is gone, we’re done,” Tarkington said.