BRADENTON, Fla. — Steve Gibson expected this project to pay off, but even the optimistic pastor was pleasantly surprised at the large turnout for the debut of the Community Compassion Care Bus.
“The night went well and we served a large segment of our homeless and less served community,” he said. “This pandemic has been hard on all of us but this is one way that we can socially distance, practice our hand washing, hygiene, and still service our community.”
Gibson’s church, First Church of the Nazarene, partnered with several community organizations and volunteers to make Monday’s event successful. Hungers End Food Pantry hosted the crowd. Bring On The Ministry rented a trailer from Bridge Church in order to provide mobile showers. The Blessing Bags Project provided meals for 175 people.
“It can be a little big challenging, but it was good,” said one of the founders of The Blessing Bags Project, Besty Plante. “God showed up mightily last night. It was good.”
The bus and community partners served nearly 200 people from the Bradenton homeless community. They were given meals and picked up much-needed clothing from the bus. It was a decommissioned and refurbished 25-passenger bus unfit for carrying church groups long distances anymore. It was unveiled in June after a church service. It made it’s first in-person impact Monday night.
The bus was filled with clothing items like pants, shirts, and shoes. Anyone in need was welcomed to enter and “shop” for whatever he or she needed. The bus event lasted over three hours.
“A lot of people want to help but they don’t know how to help,” said Plante. “It’s really about community coming together. When community comes together, God really loves it.”
The Blessing Bags Project is “dedication to the homeless and less fortunate by providing basic, critical needs." The project plans to take items to Lake Charles, La. next week to help people impacted by Hurricane Laura.
Non-profit volunteers will take things like tarps, propane tanks, portable grills, diapers, wipes and other essentials. They have done similar trips with other storms in the past five years. Last year, Plante’s outreach raised over $6,000 for victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.
Dr. Lindsay B. Eastman has made a huge impact on the project. The periodontist has donated oral hygiene products like toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste through Oral-B. Proper dental work is one of the services that most often gets neglected for the homeless community.
“We are very grateful as he sticks to our bus at no charge to assist us in delivering care to the community!” said Gibson. “It’s amazing in the world we live in that people have never been told they are loved. They’ve never been told that they’re cared for by other people. So, that is our message.”
He called this bus a “one-of-a-kind vehicle” when it was unveiled nearly three months ago, but it will certainly not be a one-time service vehicle. Gibson and his church plan to take the bus out to serve the Bradenton homeless community as often as possible in conjunction with those other community outreaches.
Different community organizations cook and provide food at the Hungers End Food Pantry at 1802 14th St W, Bradenton, FL 34205 each Monday night.