The late afternoon sun was shining bright in Austin, Texas as I crossed the church parking lot to greet a Bread For All neighbor before the December 7th distribution at the food pantry.
“¡Gracias, gracias, gracias, pastor!”
The smile on this neighbor’s face, a middle-aged Hispanic woman who houses three generations of her family in a SE Austin home, was just as bright as the dominating December sunshine. I had let her know the previous Tuesday by phone that we were sending a check to the bearer of her mortgage loan to cover the entire amount of their December payment. The sunny encounter in the parking lot was the first time we had seen each other in person since she received the good news, and she conveyed her gratitude with a wide smile and hands in prayer formation.
“Gracias a Dios,” I responded with a head nod and smile, and my hands similarly clasped.
This BFA neighbor was one of nineteen recipients of an award from BFA’s Rent Assistance program, facilitated by a generous grant from St. David’s Foundation. BFA’s parent organization, ACL, wrote a proposal for the grant in October. The Foundation’s Covid-19 Recovery Fund, a $10 million emergency effort, also benefitted ACL’s partner organization, Mariposa Family Learning Center, with a $45,000 grant to support its 2-Gen childcare and parent education programming.
BFA dispersed close to $18,000 from its rent assistance program, with awards ranging from just under $100 to more than $1,400 – depending on family size, other assistance received, and previous rent or mortgage debt accrued. BFA neighbors were required to submit an application, consisting of a statement of family size and Covid-induced difficulties (such as work shortages), rental or mortgage agreements, copy of an ID, and the name of the person or corporation who receives their rental or mortgage payments (ACL cut checks directly to these persons or corporations).
BFA leaders Jane Tackett and Pastor Ellen Williams assisted ACL Treasurer Steve Zwernemann and me on a committee to determine recipients for the rent assistance awards. Pastor Brad Highum, ACL’s president, and Abiding Love’s business administrator, Denise Alaimo, also helped out with program planning and check disbursement. Pastor Lea Walker-Clark, who runs the Austin non-profit No More, No Más, shared the application process (described in the above paragraph) that her organization used for a similar rent assistance program.
Earlier this year at the beginning of the pandemic, BFA received a timely grant from All Together–ATX for food purchases. At the same time, donations made by ACL church members – more than $2,000 – were supplemented by a $500 “match” from our national church’s hunger grant program. BFA was one of 100 food pantries in our national Lutheran network to receive the $500 grant match.
Recently, BFA received another All Together-ATX grant to supplement neighbors’ grocery purchases and basic living expenses. We will disburse these funds as the calendar turns to 2021.
In January of the new year, ACL will eclipse ten years as an organization. Bread For All has operated for more than seven years and – because of the pandemic – is busier and needed now more than ever. ACL successfully launched Mariposa FLC earlier this year. Eleven ELCA congregations and a mission organization actively support ACL, BFA, and MFLC with volunteers, financial donations, food donations, and ample prayer! As an organization, ACL is extremely blessed.
What might the next year – or the next ten years – hold for our shared ministry?
Stay tuned and involved. Thanks be to God, there is more to come for ACL. “More, better, together” has worked well for ACL in its first ten years and we’re fittingly encouraged to continue to build strong partnerships as we move forward in mission. We know that this work is divinely blessed and prophetically inspired: “If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).
- Rev. Tim Anderson, Director of Austin City Lutherans