HOMETOWN HEROES — Port Arthur church feeds hundreds each month from donations, volunteers

Published 12:50 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

Empowerment Church in Port Arthur feeds more than 300 families by food donations in their parking lot by way of a drive-through distribution system on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month from 10 a.m. to noon.

All Southeast Texas residents are welcome to pick up food that range from fresh breads and fruits to meats and canned goods.

The church is seeking volunteers to assist on distribution days and stocking the pantry on food delivery days.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Janice Milo, pastor of Empowerment Church, said the first distribution normally has meats available as well as the non-perishable food items like canned goods. And in the second distribution, they will have things like the tuna fish, canned meats or packet meats like the beef stew or chicken.

“We have soups, vegetables and, sometimes, our partnership stores will call us, and they’ll have produce,” Milo said. “(On a recent week), we had watermelons, honeydew melons, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. And so, you know, it’s been a blessing. And we’ve been able to serve so many families here in the community.

“We began the food distribution service three years ago at Missionary Baptist Church in Beaumont with Pastor Adolph. When that began, we distributed food boxes.”

The COVID-19 Pandemic was a catalyst for Milo to begin a food pantry at Empowerment Church to feed the Port Arthur community. A year later, that endeavor flourished with local partnerships.

“We partnered with Southeast Texas Food Bank, Walmart and Big Lots,” she said. “It was always a goal when I planted the ministry in 2010. So, a food pantry was always part of the plan. I guess we just had to wait for the right timing. We started out in a storefront location at the old bank building on Capri Drive in 2010. When we started the ministry in 2013, we moved to this location. And I believe that’s when we got closer to the vision because the location is very strategic.”

JoEll Milo, Empowerment Church secretary, aides Janice Milo, pastor of Empowerment Church in the church food pantry. (Sierra Kondos/Special to The News)

The location has an easy access point whether coming or going from the city on Memorial Drive.

A drive through that begins on the feeder road going back to 39th Street. People have been coming long enough, they don’t block the intersections. They’re very patient, according to Milo.

“Once on base, we take their information. If they’re already on our list, we check them off,” she said. “If it’s their first time, they show their identification card. They come through, we take their information, check them off, we have a process. If it’s a family, one to five, we give them one ticket. They get a bag of groceries and a meat. If it’s six or more, they’ll get two tickets, they’ll get two bags of groceries, and they’ll get two meats for their family. Let’s say for instance if someone who doesn’t have any identification, or someone who’s walking, right, they walk up, we take their information. You let them go through and get their food, so we don’t turn anyone down.”

As the reputation of the distribution days spreads, the church relies on volunteers to assist with the two- hour time constraint.

“We need volunteers,” she said. “And normally during the summer we try to have some of the youth come out to help us because they’re out of school. So as teenagers, they’ll come out and help. People who are needing community service hours can come out and help with the distribution and stock our food pantry. We get our food delivered once a month, and we have to stock our shelves and you have a food pantry here on site.”

Personal information is confidential and acquired by trained volunteers.

“We do not want anyone to feel insecure about filling out the documents,” Milo said. “We take their names, addresses, phone numbers and the number of people who live in their household and their ages. We ask if they have school aged children, if they are on social security, food stamps, welfare and if their children get free lunch at school.”

The church does not ask for proof of income.

“There is generational poverty, there is temporary poverty because of the loss of a job, someone got sick, or someone was laid off,” she said. “And so that is a situation that’s temporary. They need help, sometimes it’s for three months, sometimes it’s for six months, and we’re here for those individuals.”

The church is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located at 3600 Memorial Blvd. in Port Arthur. Call 409-983-1771 for more information.

Written by Sierra Kondos