KATHLEEN, Fla. — It’s been nine days since a tornado ripped through the small community of Kathleen just north of Lakeland, Florida.
Many people are still are working to find ways to move on and recover, including those of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church. While services are being held at a different location, the first priority is getting their food bank back up and running.
"Many people drove to us because our food bank gave away so many different things. We were giving away meats, dairy, bread, vegetables. A lot of food banks, you get canned foods, no fresh stuff," explained Matt Gilmore, the pastor at Mt. Tabor Baptist.
The church's ministry center food was taken out by an EF-2 tornado that ripped through last week. The center stored all the food for the church's weekly food bank, which served about 200 people every Thursday.
Now, Gilmore is working with other food banks in the area and county leaders to try and get it back up and running.
Gilmore has spent long hours at the church trying to clean up, evaluate the damage, coordinate volunteers and still provide worship for a distraught congregation.
"We’re trying to still do ministry in the midst of all this mess," he said.
Sunday morning, a disaster relief volunteer and retired pastor took over the preaching duties for Gilmore.
"He’s tired. He’s drained emotionally and he just needed a break, Pastor Fred Edwards said. Edwards has been a disaster relief volunteer for several years and as a retired pastor, this storm hit close to home.
"My message today is going to be hope through not becoming discouraged under the circumstances," Edwards said.
Mt. Tabor is holding services at nearby Bethel Baptist Church while they make repairs and renovations.
Gilmore hopes to have the food bank running by Nov. 7.
If you'd like to help the church in any way, you can call 863-858-3608 or click here to follow their Facebook page, where there are daily posts about what the church needs most.
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