By Lillian Bowe
Local pastor Don Thomas believes the support his church, and other area churches and groups, gave to the 100-plus laid-off Sunland Inc. employees went beyond its monetary value.
“I think we helped physically and emotionally for these people. We showed that we cared for them and we’re willing to donate our time and money to help them,” said Thomas, pastor of Central Christian Church in Portales.
When Sunland pulled the plug on its operation in October after filing for bankruptcy and failing to recover from the financial burden of a salmonella outbreak and nationwide recall, it left people jobless and in need of support.
The Portales Ministerial Alliance, comprised of area churches and organizations, answered that call for help almost immediately.
Last October, 16 churches in Portales and other community organizations came together to supply food and non-perishable goods to the people who were out of work because of the closure. The program ended in January.
Thomas, who is also president of the alliance, said it was a huge community effort. Thomas said he called an emergency meeting to figure out what they could do to help.
“Over 60 people came to help out and it was people from all over the community. It was amazing to see how many people came to help out,” Thomas said.
Thomas said there were four distributions of food and non-perishable goods from October to December. The goods came from the local churches and other community organizations such as United Way of Eastern New Mexico and Habitat for Humanity.
The first distribution served 115 families who picked up food and other goods in October.
Brad Morgan, pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, said the alliance raised $13,000 to specifically help the laid-off workers. The money came from local businesses, individuals and from local churches.
Thomas said in addition to the distributions, the group held a Christmas gift event for the employees who had small children.
Morgan said they also gave away gifts and gas cards to the employees.
The money for Sunland was used up by January, but Thomas said he believes the program really helped the employees.
The ministerial alliance is still up and running helping other people in need by giving them money to pay for utilities and other goods.
“Our goal was to show that the first… to help was the church,” Thomas said.