SALISBURY – As far as the eye could see in any direction, the cars lined up on either side of Hawkinstown Road near St. Luke’s Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday morning.
A line of people stretching from the church to the parking lot awaited their turn to enter the communion hall. The line started to form around 4 am. Most of those who arrived early had already left at lunchtime, but more people had come to take their seats in line.
Hundreds of people from various counties were there in search of food supplies and a chance to receive up to $ 800 in financial aid from a COVID-19 relief program that the São Lucas Missionary Baptist Church is running in conjunction with the Concerned Citizens of Brutonville.
The program is one of several similar programs run at various locations in nearby counties. Funding for the program, Fairley said, originated from the CARES Act and was channeled from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to Brutonville Concerned Citizens, a non-profit organization located in Montgomery County.
The St. Luke website opened last week and will remain open every Tuesday and Thursday, from 9 am to 4 pm. until March.
“It is open to anyone who has been impacted by COVID-19,” said St. Luke’s pastor Marcus Fairley. “If you have a positive COVID-19 test, bring it with you. If you had to be quarantined from work, or someone in your immediate family has COVID-19 and you had to be quarantined from work or someone in your immediate family had COVID-19 and you have to be quarantined, you qualify by virtue of having been quarantined. “
Fairley said St. Luke was chosen as a location due to his friendship with Jamie Ewings, who said she was subcontracted by Brutonville Concerned Citizens to help with the program.
To be eligible, Fairley said, you must be a resident of Rowan, Stanly or Montgomery counties, you must have a valid identity document proving your place of residence and you must be able to provide a positive COVID-19 test result.
Fairley said that each person who visits the church will receive a box of food and personal protective equipment and may also request financial assistance. Food boxes include canned products like beans and corn, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. No money is distributed in the church, but a check will be sent to the person’s home address in 4-6 weeks.
On the first day of the program, Fairley said 325 people filed for financial aid at the church. When the program reopened on Tuesday, even more people attended.
“We served 520 people on Tuesday,” said Fairley.
Most people heard about the program by word of mouth or on the church’s Facebook page, Fairley said.
The sheer number of people who flocked to the church indicates a great need for the community, said Fairley.
“We were expecting a lot of people. What is my surprise is that it says poverty, ”said Fairley. “People wouldn’t be in line like that if they didn’t need help. We have a problem in America and we need to deal with poverty. “
A team of about 15 people, made up of members of St. Luke’s Church and members of Brutonville Concerned Citizens, is distributing food, answering the phones and helping people in the process of applying for financial aid.
“It is a blessing to come home at night,” said Fairley. “We are tired when we leave here. We prayed at the beginning of the day and left in a group. We realize that it is an opportunity to be a blessing and help these people. “
People with disabilities and special needs can call to schedule a visit to the church to avoid the queue, said Fairley.
In order to ensure the safety of those who work, Fairley said, St. Luke is allowing only a few people in the building to complete one application at a time. This has led to longer waiting times, but Fairley said he asks people to be patient.
Since the program is only a week old, Fairley said workers are still solving problems, including the parking situation.
The church’s two parking lots are not adequate to accommodate the number of cars, so people stopped at the shoulder of Hawkinstown Road. Fairley said workers have tried to alert neighbors to what’s going on and that people should avoid parking on lawns and sidewalks.
“We are serving everyone in the best way we know,” said Fairley. “As we develop the program, we do more.”
Fairley said he requested police presence to guarantee order and hopes that the Salisbury Police will help with traffic from Tuesday.
People who visit the church are asked to park completely on the shoulder and not to wander the streets. Carpooling is also encouraged among family members who have already been in contact with each other.
Fairley said the church is looking for more sponsors from the community, especially grocery owners who could donate any food.
For more information about the program, call St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church at 704-636-8947.