In February of this year, Texas was impacted by Winter Storm Uri. As the weather conditions worsened and temperatures dropped, Texas' electric infrastructure for producing and delivering electricity froze. This meant, “the freezing temperatures became a power problem, became a gas problem, became a water problem, and became a humanitarian crisis,” according to Michael Webber, an energy resources professor at the University of Texas at Austin. This humanitarian crisis was deadly for historically underserved communities as people sheltered in place during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The state health department reported 151 fatalities were officially linked to the storm. In response, the Rev. Dr. Michael Waters and his congregation at Abundant Life AME Church (ABL) could not sit by and allow another cold or hungry person to go without water, a hot meal, or personal protective equipment.
As a result of the storm and its aftermath, Abundant Life AME Church partnered with Faith and Fork and the DFW Faith Health Collaborative to provide essential resources to those who were already experiencing systemic forms of oppression. In February, the partnership served over 200 families in Dallas County. Each received a prepared hot meal, cases of water, personal protective equipment, hotel rooms costs covered, and assistance with navigation to local social services.
The newly formed partnership then pivoted to address another crisis in the community: COVID-19. Building on the systems put into place in February. Now Abundant Life AME Church, Faith and Fork, and the DFW Faith Health Collaborative (FHC) have partnered to provide COVID-19 vaccinations, personal protective equipment, water, fresh fruits and vegetables, and summer appropriate meals to its neighbors.
DFW FHC has provided programming to various communities for COVID-19 testing and now coordinates COVID-19 vaccinations with Abundant Life AME Church to communities who experience barriers to care by going door-to-door educating and registering neighbors. During our last vaccination distribution, we met a forty-year-old African American husband with a family of five who had contracted COVID-19 earlier in 2021. The virus spread to his entire family. They all recovered; however, the man was very hesitant to get vaccinated. After bringing his children for their vaccinations, he saw their courage, listened to their reasoning, and expressed how accessible it was. When he decided to get vaccinated, he stated, “[he would] rather be safe than sorry.”
ABL Church has two locations in Dallas, Texas. The primary location is in Dolphin Heights, with their second location, the Joy Empowerment Center, located East of Fair Park. Both sites are in communities identified by the 2016 and 2019 Dallas County’s Community Health Needs Assessment as home to the low income and the underserved and experiencing high infant mortality, pregnant women death, and a lack of care coordination and partnerships. The commitment of Abundant Life AME Church and its partners to supporting the social services needs of both communities is unwavering, and we thank all those who have supported us in our efforts.
The Joy Empowerment Center of Abundant Life AME Church is one of the organizations who received the PHPC Loaves & Fishes fund created to support residents economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.