Cars lined up outside the Tyler Assistance Center as groceries were handed out by First Baptist Church in Tyler as part of its annual drive-thru distribution event Saturday. Families filled the parking lot with big smiles on their faces and a sense of comfort knowing they were obtaining a Thanksgiving meal.

Attendees left with a Thanksgiving sack full of all the holiday fixings — two hams, two cans of green beans, three cans of corn, two cans of fruit, two cornbread mixes, one box of cake mix and one can of icing.

First Baptist Church of Tyler has been holding the event for 15 years and the community has come to count on it for a holiday meal. Some lined up the night before to ensure they’d get a sack of groceries.

“We had a guy that was here from 11 p.m. at night, he slept out on the porch to make sure he got a ham,” First Baptist Church volunteer Martha Wheat said.

Wheat has been volunteering for the past 15 years and looks forward to helping every year.

“I think the sweetest thing about this event is that we are caring for our neighbors but they care for each other too. We had a pencil today that we would take to the cars stating how much sacks each car needed. This was because families had gotten their friends a sack that didn’t have a way to come,” she said. “They help each other and it’s about everybody caring about others.”

From her years of assisting in the distribution, Wheat said Tyler is blessed and she admires how everyone helps each other.

“Single mommas, elderly, single older seniors, there’s a lot of people hurting but there’s a lot of people wanting to help and that’s what makes Tyler special,” she said.

Robert Watson, Minister of Missions at First Baptist Church in Tyler, said the event this year garnered a total of 93 volunteers, 1,196 food sacks and 1,800 hams.

Each year, the sack is prepared months in advance and has turned into an event the whole Tyler community participates in.

“This year we collected almost 1,200 sacks, it all started with First Baptist Church but now it’s become more of a community (effort). We had donations from Bethesda Health Clinic, some school classrooms, the Plaza Tower, People’s Petroleum Building, South Spring Baptist Church and we have a bible study fellowship that we have on Wednesday and a lot of those ladies picked up sacks and brought them to us,” Watson said.

Echoing Wheat’s sentiments, Watson also said Tyler is a great community that helps each other.

“This year especially has been amazing, we look around our world and see everything going on. People are willing to help, Tyler is a great community and I think they take pretty good care of people who are less fortunate or more needy,” he said. “Through all of this First Baptist has been amazingly blessed during COVID. We’ve grown as a church and are doing financially well, our people just wanna give back to our community.”

Watson and the volunteers all had smiles on their faces as the distribution event went on Saturday, and some volunteers heard stories that brought tears to their eyes.

“People are just gracious and thankful. All sorts of people come to our parking lot, we have time to talk to them and they may be going through chemotherapy, or other difficulties,” he said. “We have time to talk to them and sometimes pray with them, it’s a blessing to our community and a blessing to our church to be able to do this.”

For more information or to contribute to First Baptist Church and their community outreach, call 903-595-1021.


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