BRADENTON -- The Rev. W. J. “Bill” Bailey was surrounded by food, music and people. Hungry people. Poor people.
It wasn’t a block party Wednesday afternoon at the pastor’s Rogers Memorial United Methodist Church, but the mood was lively nevertheless.
“This is God’s additional blessing to this community -- a community that’s been hard hit,” Bailey said.
It was a food giveaway by the Food Bank of Manatee County and Bank of America volunteers, who distributed food collected in the recent U.S. Postal Service drive.
To Bailey’s right stood an array of tented tables piled with canned goods, dry food, bread, juice, produce and meat on the front lawn of the church on 15th Street East.
To his left stood a long line of 400 to 600 people -- many holding cardboard boxes, some pulling wire wagons or pushing grocery carts -- winding its way around the church.
Out on the street, his volunteers played traffic cop with all the vehicles pulling into the busy parking lot.
“Jesus told us to love our neighbors and this is how we demonstrate our love,” Bailey said.
People were feeling the love, too.
There was Jim Eastham, who’s been unemployed for a year, waiting in line patiently.
“Food stamps don’t last long, so this will help out a lot,” the 51-year-old said.
Joyce Lovett, a single mother of three, was the first one through the line.
“This is a blessing, yes it is, and I’m thankful for the help,” the 56-year-old said. “It’s been hard hard.”
Bailey knows it too well.
His church has a pantry and hands out emergency food baskets on a regular basis holds a free hot lunch on Wednesdays.
“Every day people come,” the pastor said. “We’re surrounded by people without jobs, living below the poverty line. Our job as a church is to supply the people’s needs. People don’t have food for the family, we’re able to feed them.”
Ania Adderley was happy to help.
“Looking at that line of people and seeing this much food, makes me proud to be able to contribute to the community,” said the food bank volunteer.
It made a difference to Sandra Pate, who brought three of her seven grandchildren to help bring food home.
“This will last us two months,” she said.
Looking at the long line, Jim Santarsiero wasn’t sure that applied to everybody on it.
“I just hope we have enough food,” the bank executive said.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.