“Gideon’s Army”: thousands of residents supplied from Odenton church

A long line of cars from Anne Arundel County and beyond poured into the drive-thru food pickup offered by Kingdom Celebration Center Monday, March 30. The lines have been there to pick up needed food and supplies once of weeks for the past few weeks Thousands of local residents, in need—serving at least 4,600 households in the events that took place before Monday. Figures weren’t available yet for the 30th, said the man who heads the center-- Bishop Antonio Palmer Palmer, is the reverend for the 150 or so congregants who are members of the church at 1350 Blair Drive in Odenton. The Christian congregation is described on its website as a nondenominational charismatic church. They have set up the ongoing food drive and drive-thru pickup, usually once a week on Mondays at 10 a.m., during the virus emergency. Much of the food is provided by Maryland’s food bank. Palmer compared his church, including the 30-plus volunteers who were giving produce to those in need to “Gideon’s Army.” In chapter seven of the Bible’s book of Judges, God commanded Israelite-leader Gideon to defeat the opposing forces of Midian with only 300 soldiers in order to show that God was the source of their victory. “So like Gideon's army, he, he told the other 30,000 to go home, “ Palmer said of the volunteers. “He took 300 that was willing to do the job.” The assembled volunteers are on a front line too, trying to help beat back the personal emergencies of many county residents and their families. Palmer was grateful for the support of everyone in the county who help make the food drive events happen. Anytime you're in a crisis it it brings us closer despite the fact that we can't touch each other,” he said.” The longing in our hearts (for) fellowship again is a great longing. I not only thank God, but thank everybody for their support, whether it's government, whether it's churches, individuals.” One volunteer, is Xavier Hawkins who normally acts to help with security for the bishop and his congregation. On Monday Hawkins was helping direct traffic for the drive-thru in front of the center’s building in Odenton. He may have resembled one of Gideon’s biblical soldiers. Hawkins stood out in the parking lot wearing a bright red sweatshirt, sporting a long peppered white beard. No mask for armor, he shouted orders to other volunteers. But he was still happily willing to answer questions. “I love it,” he said. “I love helping people. And that's the way our men and women of God are-- it's all about helping the people. My attitude towards it is just let go, and let God.” He had some encouraging words from his neighbors struggling with the emergency. “I would say that ,you know, we all have to stick together,” he said. “Know that you always can come here and we're here to take care of people. As the governor has ordered, try to keep it to six feet away. I just want to say don't give up. It's gonna be alright.” Palmer recognized that residents have been thankful for the work they’re doing. “Oh, people are very grateful,” he said. “They're thankful that we're able to do something like this. We have several cars today that are picking up from for seniors, or elders, which is I think is amazing, whether it's their grandmother or someone like that, or maybe it's a neighbor that can't get out. We're seeing how everybody is rallying together to make it through this corona pandemic.” The center is accepting donations on its website as well as its food pantry. Currently they need as much meat as they can get and paper products too, like paper towels and toilet paper. To find out more about donating call 410-672-2006 or contact the bishop at a.palmer@kingdomcelebrationcenter.com The center also has two licensed mental health counselors available to offer help for those getting And they have a limited supply of hygiene supplies. A director from the nonprofit housing and community development agency, Anne Arundel Community Development Services (AACDS), was also on the scene to see how they could offer help. Erin Karpewicz, policy director for the organization, said she was taking note of the needs of the food drive. The center receives grant funds with the help of the agency to support some of its work. “So when I heard they were doing this, I just wanted to come out and volunteer and see what the needs are,” she said.” So we can think about getting some other grant resources to get them some food. “It seems like you know, they need more, they need more resources to give out food—protein. I've learned that there's a lot of need, by just seeing all the cars lined up early this morning.” Palmer remarked that cars were already started to line up for food at 7:45 a.m., even though the drive-thru wasn’t scheduled to start until 10 a.m.. Maryland State Delegate from District 32, Mike Rogers, was also present at the event to lend support. The legislator was elected in 2018. While his job is to offer government support to his constituents, Rogers said he is also a member of St Mary of the Mills Roman Catholic Church in Laurel. He addresses public service through a civic-minded lens as a politician. As a Christian he was also aware of the part faith was playing. “I think what they're doing here is a demonstration of faith though good works,” Rogers said.” The Bible tells us that while there is justification by faith alone ,you know, you’ve got to do good works.” Another volunteer, Devin Tucker, agreed with the delegate, that works of service were an important part of what motivated them. “For me and I think the other volunteers, that's kind of what it's all about--just understanding that if you can be of service to somebody else, you should do so,” he said. Palmer emphasized that community members follow whatever guidelines were coming from the Centers for Disease Control as well as Anne Arundel County’s public health officer. Monday’s drive-thru supplied a steady stream of vehicles. Tucker called it a “fairly consistent” line. “A lot of people coming out ,you know, are just really trying to get the basics, the essentials and I think people are just very grateful for what the church is doing.” It’s a time, he said, that calls for all residents to do their part. “I think that this is one of those moments where we all have to commit to taking care of each other, respecting each other appreciating notions of mutuality.” To find out more about donating or receiving help call 410-672-2006 or contact the bishop at a.palmer@kingdomcelebrationcenter.com