After weeks of preparation, a local church, in partnership with Burbank’s Department of Parks and Recreation, is giving away food and other supplies to about 500 families today.
The drive-up distribution event, which runs from 10 a.m.-noon at the Joslyn Adult Center, will see an estimated 40,000 pounds of food dispensed. Leaders of the Burbank campus of South Hills Church say the event is meant to help members of a community that, like many, is suffering from the economic wound caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Across all of our campuses, we were trying to figure out how do we respond the best to the current needs of people, knowing that because of the pandemic a lot of people were struggling paycheck to paycheck, [or] no paycheck, trying to figure out how to feed their families,” Dave Stewart, pastor of South Hills’ Burbank campus, said before the event.
The church partnered with nonprofit Convoy of Hope, which shipped truckloads of food to South Hills campuses, including Burbank’s. Soon, the city’s parks department became another ally, hosting the event at one of its spaces.
Other local nonprofits also joined the effort. The Kids’ Community Dental Clinic, for example, donated toothbrushes. Event organizers are also giving away pet food, baby diapers, face masks and other supplies.
“[We’re] very appreciative of all the support from local organizations, nonprofits and volunteers for making this event possible,” Marisa Garcia, director of the parks department. “During these unprecedented times, the Burbank community has really demonstrated that we’re working together to help serve those in need in our community.”
Karrie Stewart, the church’s community director and Dave’s wife, estimated that 120-150 volunteers have helped prepare and put on the event. Today’s event, she explained, is the first time the church has done food distribution on this scale.
“We really feel it’s important to provide things that help people realize that we notice them and that we care,” she said.
One of those volunteers is Amy Berger, a South Hills Church member who was helping pack plastic bags of food in the week leading up to the distribution. She and several others worked quickly in a small room that used to serve as a welcome area for the church, packaging the food in plastic bags before running them over to large cardboard bins.
Today, volunteers will place the packages of food — likely eight per family — in the trunk of each vehicle, allowing for a contactless delivery. Officers from the Burbank Police Department will be nearby to manage traffic.
The event, Berger said, is about giving people hope.
“It’s not about the food,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion behind her face mask. “It’s about giving people a sense of community, that this is going this to be over, but we’re all here to help each other out.”
The Stewarts, who moved to Burbank in 2013, credit the community for lending aid to their neighbors in a critical time of need, noting that local residents donated hundreds of food bags for the event. Anything left over from today will be donated to the Burbank Temporary Aid Center.
And though no one needs to be a part of South Hills — or any church — to receive food from the event, the Stewarts said they hope people who come today see that their faith is producing action.
“For me,” Karrie Stewart explained, “it’s that people who maybe grew up hurt by church or had a bad experience or think that church is inapplicable will see that churches care — that they care for them and that we aren’t just in our buildings and talking, we’re actually in the community being active and we want to serve them.”
Volunteering, the Stewarts added, is beneficial not just for people receiving service, but also for those who are serving.
“I always make the joke with our people that ‘You’re crazy! You’re crazy in the way that you serve people,’” the pastor said. “It doesn’t make sense —”
“It’s contagious,” his wife added.
“— because most people wouldn’t … want to give up that much of [their] Saturday,” Dave Stewart said, “but when you feel the joy of doing good for other people, it does something to you.”