Food Bank and COVID-19 Testing Site Helps Hundreds
Story by Tiffany Doss
With the Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads area accounting for more than one-fourth of all COVID-19 cases in the state of Virginia—at one point totaling 280 cases a day—members of the Peninsula Spanish church in Newport News, Va., set out share their resources with higher risk communities—minority groups and those with no access to health care.
“We spent the last few years cultivating a robust relationship with the community by establishing a biweekly food bank through Todos Comemos, our church’s food ministry, as well as doing annual health fairs,” explains member Elias Llerandi. Pre-COVID-19, members developed connections with major corporations that donate pallets of quality, often organic food, and household items. With the demand for assistance being higher since the pandemic began, members have gone from serving an average of 30 to 40 families to 120 to 150.
“Recently, our Sabbath School lesson focused on the importance of making friends with the community,” Llerandi reflects. “In it, we learned how Jesus worked things out to satisfy peoples’ needs, making them more receptive to the message of salvation. We strive to put into practice what Matthew 10:8 says—as you have received much, so shall you give—and Galatians 6:9, which tells us to not get tired of doing good.”
With these networks and trusted relationships
already established, Llerandi and other members worked to plan an event with the state’s Health Department, the local Sentara Hospital and several
city agencies, like the fire department and emergency response teams, among others. These entities pro- vided free COVID-19 testing and additional resources, like hand sanitizer and face masks, and families in need could pick up food.
“In addition to our regular food bank recipients, we focused our efforts on those in need, like minority groups, those with language barriers and the unin- sured—those who have difficultly accessing proper and routine medical care and city services. At this event, we were diligent in providing on-site translators to help individuals get the answers they needed in the required language,” says Llerandi.
With the large annual Tidewater Community Health Fair canceled this year, which includes member participation from nine Potomac churches in the area, Llerandi and others helped coordinate a smaller event that included free mammogram testing this fall and have plans for additional, smaller community outreach events in the future.