Members of Kingdom Fellowship AME Church distribute groceries during a May 16 event to help those in need during the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy of Kingdom Fellowship AME Church)
Members of Kingdom Fellowship AME Church distribute groceries during a May 16 event to help those in need during the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy of Kingdom Fellowship AME Church)

The parking lot of a Montgomery County community center was filled Saturday with boxes of groceries and volunteers as Rev. Matthew L. Watley and members of Kingdom Fellowship African Methodist Episcopal Church distributed food to people in need amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Such distributions to the community are nothing new for Watley and his Silver Spring congregation, but many who took bags of groceries at Saturday’s event only recently fell on hard times, having lost jobs because their places of employment had closed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have giving out 700 boxes of food and the need is growing,” said Watley, whose church is one of many houses of faith and charitable organizations that gave out food over the weekend. “I have never seen anything like this.”

Churches across the District, Maryland and Virginia have enlisted in an army of compassion that has grown much larger than traditional food outlets such as the Capital Area Food Bank, Martha’s Table and Catholic Charities.

Rev. Tony Lee, pastor of the Community of Hope AME Church in Temple Hills, said his congregation has been doing more than dole out groceries. Last month, the church gave out more than a thousand rolls of toilet paper and protective masks.

“The spread of the coronavirus has brought to light the level of insecurity that many people are experiencing,” Lee said. “People are living under food insecurity and health insecurity.”

On Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities will distribute 800 boxes of groceries and family meals in the west parking lot of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast.

Families will be able to drive through to pick up groceries from Catholic Charities’ volunteers. Catholic officials say that each box will have enough food to feed a family of four for five days.

Catholic Charities of DC officials say that in March there was a 200 percent increase in requests for food. In two previous events in Prince George’s County, their volunteers gave out 1,400 boxes of groceries and 1,400 ready-to-eat family meals.

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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