For years, people would line up in the early morning hours to receive a Thanksgiving sack of groceries at the Tyler Family Assistance Center, but this year that line was slightly different.

This year, in light of COVID-19 safety, the lines of people became a line of many vehicles. On Saturday morning, they wound through the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Tyler’s annual grocery and ham ministry event.

Pastor Pike Wisner, of First Baptist Church of Tyler, along with many other volunteers, placed sacks of Thanksgiving meal supplies filled with chicken, hams and groceries to hundreds of people.

The groceries included items like green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, cornbread, and a cake mix with icing. The chickens totaled 300 and there were 550 hams for families.

“We normally have a long line of people, and this year we’re having people in their cars,” he said.

The annual distribution has been a tradition for the church for 13 years since the economic recession in 2008.

First Baptist received help from South Spring Baptist Church, Austin Bank, tenants of the Plaza Tower in downtown Tyler and the Bethesda Health Clinic to fill and provide the grocery sacks. The church also got another annual anonymous $10,000 donation to purchase the chickens and hams.

Wisner said the intention was to give out the meals to as many families who need the help as they can, until the supplies run out.

“The Lord has provided for us,” he said. “Because of our gratitude to Him, we can be generous to others.”

He added that it’s great to have unity as Thanksgiving approaches during a year of division and challenging times due to COVID-19.

“Lord willing, we’ll do it until Jesus comes back,” Wisner said.

Church member and volunteer Martha Wheat called the distribution a blessing to serve neighbors.

“It’s something that God has allowed us to do, and that’s to help others,” Wheat said. “God’s good all the time.”

This annual distribution is the largest event to take place at the Tyler Family Assistance Center, which provides food and clothing to about 80 to 90 families. The center is open from 8 to 11 a.m. on Thursdays, and it’s completely staffed by volunteers.

The center serves as ministry under the church and works with the East Texas Food Bank to provide food and services to community members.


I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.

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