‘It was a blessing’: Polk charity thrives during pandemic as it gives supplies, food to hundreds in need

A faith-based group recently handed out truckloads of free cleaning supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Freedom Tour, sponsored by Freedom Church in Lake Wales, distributed hand sanitizer, wipes, and Clorox products to hundreds of people who showed up at Caver Funeral Home on West Orange Avenue.

Keith Kurz showed up with his 82-year-old mother. He was especially thankful for the items because he has prioritized cleaning since the pandemic.

"I am always wiping," he told FOX 13. "Always cleaning, always wiping down cabinets and counters to make sure they’re clean. I am afraid to get it."

READ: Florida attorney general: Be alert about COVID-19 testing scams

Freedom Tour holds up to ten events like this each week in Polk County. It also feeds people at its church in Eloise and gives food to the Polk County School District to distribute.

The project started from humble beginnings. Five years ago, Bobby Williams, its founder, began feeding a dozen or so homeless people who gathered under a carport. Since then it has grown incredibly, especially after the pandemic hit. In 2021, Williams says Freedom Tour gave away more than $40 million in food.

READ: Federal government extends expiration date for 1 million Florida COVID-19 test kits

"For most people, they look at COVID as a bad thing. I get that," Williams said. "But for us, it was a blessing. It gave us access to more food, more cleaning supplies, everything."

The effort has gotten so big, the Freedom Tour recently took over a former Sears store at the Eagle Ridge Mall as a warehouse.

COVID UPDATES: Download the free FOX 13 News app for ongoing coronavirus coverage and live updates