Dallas clergy and volunteers gathered Friday afternoon at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas’ Red Bird community to put together 30,000 masks and person protective equipment to distribute at area churches.
The effort was led by the Rev. Edwin Robinson, organizer of Dallas Black Clergy for Safety Equity and Justice, who said the effort was a critical part of getting PPE to African Americans, a segment of the population that has been hit disproportionately hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we’re doing is not fixing a problem,” Robinson said. “We’re just doing triage at this point. And we know that, but we have to help our people as best we can.”
Volunteers from six area congregations helped sort equipment. Kits meant for two adults contained 10 masks and one bottle of hand sanitizer. Kits with five masks were given to individuals.
The PPE was fundraised by LIVE FREE director and pastor Michael McBride. Putting together the kits was a joint effort by Friendship West Baptist Church, Impact Church, Abundant Life AME, Wesley Chapel AME, Disciple Central Community Church, City Temple Seventh Day Adventist Church, and Antioch Fellowship Baptist Church.
“When we deliver food boxes on Thursdays, you don’t realize how many people are in need,” volunteer and school teacher Avia Williams said. “Masks were so hard to come by when all of this started. And then people were price gouging when it came to the masks. So anything to help those who we can be a blessing to, I have no problem with that.”
Clergy and volunteers practiced social distancing while preparing the kits. Everyone wore masks and was provided with gloves, and they were discouraged from touching their phones or their faces.
The kits will go to six Dallas-area churches, with each getting 2,500 masks. The churches, in turn, can distribute as needed in the communities. If donations continue to come in, more kits can be prepared in the months ahead.
“When the pandemic first came out, we couldn’t find essential things anywhere,” volunteer Mercedes Monk said. “Masks, gloves — just household needs that we needed.”
But now, PPE is becoming more widespread, she said. And her efforts are helping that become the case.
Robinson was critical of politicians at all levels, saying he believes local and state governments could spend more money to better keep people safe.
Before starting to pack masks, he led volunteers in a prayer.
“God, we pray that because of our example, our city, our government, our federal government takes notice, and they shine a light on our people,” he said.
Robinson said he hopes the kits represent tangible help for people in need and send a message that African Americans are being overlooked as the novel coronavirus continues to ravage the black community..
“Those supplies are not making it to black people,” he said. “And they’re not making it to poor people. The simple reality is black people are dying at a much higher rate and contracting this virus at a much higher rate than any other demographic in the country.
“And unfortunately — and I really mean that ‘unfortunately’ — we’re having to be here and do this. We are essential workers, fundamentally.”