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Hurricane Laura food supplies packaged with Census fill-out plea in Port Arthur

A number of local groups got together at Empowerment Church on Tuesday morning to help those in need, as well as provide information on the 2020 Census.

A line of cars snaked down the road for blocks in front of Empowerment Church on Memorial Boulevard up to 39th Street and beyond.

Some, like Sue James, got in line hours before the 9 a.m. start time. James got there at 6:45 a.m. and was first.

An employee with the South East Texas Food Bank unloads a pallet of food at a distribution event outside Empowerment Church on Tuesday. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“I appreciate what they’re doing; we sure need it,” James said.

She is one of a number of Port Arthur residents that lost food when they lost power during Hurricane Laura.

Jennifer Martinez is a mother of five dealing with the struggle to put food on the table. She receives help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program but lost food during the power outage. She is hoping for reimbursement for lost food during the outage but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Martinez has been able to stretch meals with the help of local sites that distribute food but there’s a catch — she’s using gas to go to these locations (not on the same day) when the reimbursement assistance would tide her over until the next month.

The Rev. Janice Milo, pastor of Empowerment Church, center, gives last minute instructions for the food distribution. (Mary Meaux/The News)

While the recipients waited in their vehicles, a box truck from the South East Texas Food Bank arrived at the church parking lot, where volunteers unloaded the pallets of food and water.

The Rev. Vernon Tubbs, pastor of First School of Gospel Baptist Church and member of the organizations assisting, said the coalition is able to do more together as a team and help more people then if they did the donations on their own.

Each local community has their own needs from the storm and in Port Arthur, that need is food, Tubbs said. Some organizations have other ways to help such as clothing, paying utilities or rent.

A line of vehicles wait for the food distribution to begin. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“We can’t do it by ourselves but we can do it together,” Tubbs said.

The Rev. Janice Milo, pastor of Empowerment Church, gathered the volunteers together and gave some last minute instructions to help with the line of cars.

Nearby, Albert Thigpen, chair of the Port Arthur Complete Count Committee, spoke about the push to get Port Arthur households to complete the 2020 Census.

Sept. 30 is the new deadline to have the Census completed.

“It is even more critical to have it completed,” Thigpen said, adding there are special efforts to reach those in the Hispanic and Asian communities.

Albert Thigpen, chair of the 2020 Census Port Arthur Complete Count Committee, left, and Efran Avendano, also with the committee, stop for a quick photo before the distribution begins. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Information was being handed out on Tuesday in the food distribution boxes and handed out at city hall when residents pay a bill.

“We’re trying to blanket the city and remind people to complete the Census,” he said.

Port Arthur has a 49.8 percent response rate as of Tuesday. The state of Texas has a 60.7 percent rate.