KATHLEEN, Fla. - A Polk County church reopened its food pantry for the first time since a tornado ripped through parts of Polk County last month.
Volunteers at Mt. Tabor Baptist Church gave out boxes of food to families in need Thrusday.
“We usually come once a week when they have the food bank because it helps us when we're having difficulties from week to week putting food in our home,” said resident Mary Green. “We depend on this place a lot. So when it was hit, it was heartbreaking, really.”
When a tornado damaged the church last month, the food bank was forced to close for about three weeks.
Pastor Matt Gilmore said he was determined to reopen on Thursday, the day of the week he usually hosts the food pantry. He also partnered with the Red Cross, United Way, and Polk County Housing Authority to offer relief services.
“Today, they're doing something wonderful. They're giving out clothes, and they're helping people that's had problems when the tornado hit and everything,” said resident Patsy Stewart.
Help also came from others impacted by the storm.
“The container box that we have now is actually funded by the teachers at Kathleen Middle School,” said Gilmore. “They raised the money to rent it out for one year for us even though they suffered the loss of their building or their roof.”
The pastor’s church building is in much worse shape than he realized. Gilmore said he is still waiting on the damage assessment, but he knows his congregation has some challenges ahead of them.
“Hopefully, we're going to be able to rebuild, but we have a huge challenge of a water tower that cost about $125,000 that the county's requiring for us to have on the property. So we can't build anything until that water tower is here,” said Gilmore.
Now, the focus turns toward fixing what’s broken and returning to a sense of normalcy.
“It's good to hear that from them. It's good to see them back again,” said Gilmore of the regular food pantry residents and volunteers.