Church Partners with Convoy to Give Away 100,000 Meals
Easter Sunday is known as one of the biggest Sundays for nearly every church, and this Easter Sunday, Calvary Orlando in Winter Park, Florida, did not disappoint — even in midst of a pandemic.
Partnering with Convoy of Hope, the church gave thousands of families a week’s worth of food Easter morning — 100,000 meals in all. Executive pastor Manny Rosario explains that the church, in light of the pandemic and the Orlando area being driven by the entertainment industry, needed to do something for the community.
“We were considering what to do when we learned of the Convoy of Hope initiative to provide 10 million meals during this pandemic,” Rosario says. “We didn’t need to reinvent the wheel — we knew we needed to partner with them.”
“Convoy of Hope is excited to partner with local churches all across the country as we provide 10 million meals to those affected by the coronavirus,” says Jeff Nene, national spokesperson for Convoy of Hope. “Calvary Orlando has been an amazing partner and we are encouraged by their efforts to distribute 100,000 of those meals.”
Rosario says that three Convoy of Hope semis arrived on the church campus on Wednesday, where over the next four days around 750 volunteers sorted, packed, and then, on Sunday, placed the bagged groceries into thousands of cars.
Calvary Orlando runs about 1,700 in attendance on typical Sunday mornings. Through online and local media coverage, the news of the Easter grocery giveaway spread quickly.
“We had people in the parking lot waiting by 2 a.m. and we weren’t scheduled to begin until 9 a.m.,” Rosario says. “But we had to start the event at 8 because the police told us that traffic was beginning to back up onto the interstate.”
Even with the distribution of groceries taking place in two lines, one in the north and one in the south parking lot, Rosario learned that the interstate was gridlocked from both directions and police estimated there were 15,000 people attempting to make it to the church campus.
As each car pulled through, volunteers, outfitted with gloves and face masks, brought four bags of groceries to the vehicle. The bags contained family-sized portions of food (the kind typically sold in wholesale club stores), including canned goods, cereal, pasta, pasta sauce, sports drinks, and much more. Rosario says they were able to load around 2,500 vehicles with groceries before they ran out.
“One of our volunteers is an older guy named Ken — he’s in his late 60s, early 70s,” Rosario says. “He brought his saxophone and went to both parking lots, playing worship songs and hymns as people received their groceries. That spoke loudly to me. He could have just stayed at home, but instead he spent three or four hours using his gift to serenade people.”
Another volunteer, Savannah Hankins, 23, has been attending Calvary Orlando for about 15 years.
“Although we couldn’t attend the church like we normally would, it gave us a chance to be the church,” Hankins says. “I will never forget putting a pack of water into an elderly lady’s backseat. She turned to look at me, and I heard the sound of her crying, muffled through her mask: ‘God bless you! God bless you!’ That moment opened my eyes . . . Serving on Easter Sunday showed me the huge impact that one Christ-like action can have.”
But providing groceries wasn’t the only thing going on Easter morning at Calvary Orlando. Lead pastor Ed Garvin was livestreaming an Easter message that people could enjoy from their homes or on their phones in their cars as they waited in line.
“We also distributed Easter kits during the week, offering them online to anyone who wanted them,” Rosario says. “Each kit contained what people would need to join in Communion during the Easter service as well as have an Easter egg hunt at their own home,” Rosario says. “We called it ‘Easter at Our House,’ and a lot of families participated, even families who do not normally attend our church.”
With all the theme parks in the Orlando area shut down, representing thousands of people not working, Rosario says that people are in need of hope.
“This was a small way of us for us to say, ‘We’re thinking about you, we’re with you,’” Rosario says. “If we can share hope by giving some groceries and letting them know they’re not alone, we wanted to do it.”
Judging by the countless positive verbal and online responses to the grocery giveaway, Easter message, and Easter at Our Home outreach, Calvary Orlando succeeded in giving thousands of people hope on a never-to-be-forgotten Easter Sunday.