DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - As the shutdown showdown drags on, the faith community is stepping up to support furloughed workers.
"I think no one anticipated how it would impact families," says Pastor Bryan Carter, Senior Pastor of Dallas' Concord Church, "these families are hurting."
Two weeks ago, as government workers were facing that first missed payday, Pastor Carter offered a special prayer during the Sunday service, then followed that up with $100 gift cards for the furloughed workers and invited the congregation to go even farther by chipping in for a special collection.
"They donated $25,000 to help those that are being furloughed," says Pastor Carter, "I was shocked and incredibly excited."
With the extra donations, Concord created what they're calling the 'Hope' fund. Along with the gift cards, furloughed workers are being encouraged to stretch the cash they have by shopping for groceries at the church food pantry, operated by Harmony Community Development Corp. Some 200 have helped so far.
"We have literally been on steroids," says Harmony Program Director Candy Bradshaw, adding that their client numbers have doubled, even tripled. And on a recent night two-thirds of those served were furloughed government workers.
"It's a very humbling experience for them, " says Bradshaw, "a food pantry is not a place many of them ever expected to be."
Among those served, an unforgettable single mother of three.
"As they were rolling the cart out, her daughter (she was probably 7) said, 'so Mom, we're going to cook some food tonight? Yeah...we're going to cook. Look at the food we got from the food pantry' and I was just shocked."
Bradshaw admits that the moment hit her hard. "It was an 'aha' moment, where you say 'but, for the grace of God go I', but at the same time, thank you God, that we are able to provide this for people in our community."
As news of the effort spread, other churches have contacted Concord with plans to launch similar programs for the furloughed workers.
"The church loves to respond in times like this: hurricanes, disasters, that's what we do best," says Pastor Carter, "and it's been neat to watch so many churches join the effort, to see businesses join the effort, to help love people and serve people during these kinds of times."
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