Church Gives $16,500 in Groceries to Furloughed Federal Workers

Employees of Redstone Arsenal and NASA received aid

The First Baptist Church located in Huntsville, Alabama, gave out $16,500 worth of gift cards to contractors and local federal workers who are trying hard to survive the continuing partial government shutdown. The gift cards were redeemed in grocery stores. The gesture itself was one component of the community-driven effort to assist furloughed workers in Huntsville, the third biggest city in Alabama. The metropolis is the headquarters of the Marshall Space Flight Center managed by NASA. The city is also home to U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal, a campus used for missile and rocket programs. The First Baptist Church is aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. It is an evangelical congregation with conservative leanings.

The partial shutdown of the government is now more than a month old, in its fifth week. The cause for the shutdown is the disagreements between U.S. President Donald J. Trump and opposition Democrats over the funding of the border wall located between the United States and Mexico. The president wants over $5 billion to construct the wall and the Democrats sitting in Congress will not release the money. This shutdown has affected a large number of government personnel, including 800,000 federal workers. About 420,000 are compulsory personnel, and they are required to work even if they do not get paid.

Travis Collins, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, told the media that the church had exhausted its disaster relief fund, amounting to $14,000. The church also collected an extra $2,500 from various church members to finance the charity effort. The church bought approximately 300 Publix grocery store gift cards, each loaded with a minimum of $50. The gift cards were exhausted within 30 minutes of opening the doors of the church. Pastor Collins was surprised and saddened by how many people waited in the morning to get the cards. He described it as a kind of impactful moment. He believes it is humbling to see people who have done everything right are now suffering due to circumstances outside of their control, requiring temporary assistance to keep them on their feet.

Alabama has almost 40,000 federal employees, and all of them continue to suffer from the shutdown. According to Pastor Collins, most of his congregation members are employees of either Redstone Arsenal or NASA.

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