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Volunteers from local churches rally to provide food, essentials during winter storm disaster
Winter Storm Uri disrupted many lives in South Texas and created a weather emergency from widespread power and water outages to a food crisis, prompting local church leaders to respond.
Parishioners from several churches arrived at the Read the Red Church last week, knowing they would be serving residents for days as the bitter cold weather plagued the town.
Many of those volunteers had lost power and water themselves, but the call to serve their community during the area’s worst winter storm in 30 years was beckoning.
Rev. Jerry Badillo of Read the Red Church led the charge to provide food and shelter and was joined by Methodist Church Pastor David Bachelor, Baptist Church Preacher Brother Brian Blackburn, Men’s Prayer Director Ben Briscoe, Pastor Roland Gutierrez of Calvary Temple, Pastor Juan Ponce of Lirio de los Valles and First Assembly of God Pastor John Davila.
“I was sitting at home with no power or water,” Rev. Badillo said in a phone interview Monday afternoon as he was under his house fixing busted pipes. “I went to check the church and I sat in the pew and began to talk to the Lord.”
The reverend says he felt commanded by God to open the church because so many people in the community were in the same situation as he and his family.
“I went to HEB and the line was so long,” he said. “But prior to the storm, my wife Tammy and I had stocked our deep freezer to the top, so we decided to go home and get everything out and cook it.”
Not long after the church doors opened, word of the charity was all over social media and Badillo felt overwhelmed.
“But when God puts something in your heart, he supplies,” the reverend said. “I just had to do what I was led to do and trust him.”
Badillo was soon joined by the pastors of the other churches, parishioners and members of the community to volunteer, whether in the form of a monetary donation or physical service.
Nearly 20 people per night sought refuge at the church, many coming during the early morning hours.
The reverend ensured that the church observed coronavirus precautions by creating a distance for those who chose to stay and eat or stay the night.
“I had to enforce it,” he said. “We provided them with masks and made sure there was distance.”
Badillo says whether they came in off the street or from the neighborhood waiting for their power to be restored, they were all part of a community coming together.
The unprecedented snowstorm that battered the region brought freezing temperatures, reportedly as low as minus three degrees. However, the spiritual leaders braved the cold by cooking meals outside on the barbecue pit and delivering meals to those who did not have the means to come get the food themselves.
“God really did supply for us, even an animal we butchered from our neighbor’s ranch,” he said.
Badillo says the church’s neighbor, Amador Montes, went to his ranch, butchered a domesticated hog and donated half of the meat.
“When he saw what we were doing he decided to just donate the whole hog,” Badillo said.
The reverend says the number of people coming to the church for help feeding their families was unprecedented.
“I lost count after five hundred,” he said, “but we fed people the whole next day as well.”
The pastor’s coalition was not the only entity to provide a warm place for residents. Pearsall City Manager Fred Reyes and his staff temporarily converted the Pearsall Civic Center into a warming shelter on Wednesday, February 17. Reyes said the shelter would stay open for those in need as long as they needed it. He anticipated the warming center to be closed by the weekend due to rising temperatures.
The city’s warming shelter provided those affected by the loss of power and water access to cots, coffee, blankets and drinking water.
“We were blessed in so many ways,” the reverend said. “We did not know what we were getting into, but the Lord provided for us, for this community. It was really an amazing thing to see.”