Food bank at Lakeland church to reopen after tornado during ‘agency fair’ event Thursday evening

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – The food bank destroyed at Mt. Tabor Baptist Church during a recent tornado is set to reopen Thursday during an event from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

In the weeks since we first spoke to Pastor Matt Gilmore after the Oct. 18 tornado blew through Polk County, much has changed at his church.

In the place where the food bank initially stood, there is now a portable storage shed which will house a temporary food bank.

The pastor told 8 On Your Side it was actually a gift from the teachers at Kathleen Middle School, who the church helped after the tornado damaged their building.

“When we got there, Ms. Gregory, the principal, said ‘hey, we have a surprise for you.’ And they had me come up and they said ‘we’ve raised the money for you to rent one of these things for one year so y’all can get the food bank back open,” Gilmore explained.

“And that’s another way that the community has come together and said ‘hey we can get this thing back open today,’ which was the target date from three weeks ago.”

The church is holding an “agency fair” Thursday evening for those in the community who still need assistance after the tornado.

Representatives from the United Way, Salvation Army, Red Cross and more will be present, along with the church’s food bank and a clothing giveaway.

“Basically it’s to target those who were most impacted by the tornado so that they can get services, instead of calling all those different places, they can come to one place and meet all of those agencies at one time,” Gilmore explained.

The storage shed was outfitted Thursday afternoon with plugs for freezers, which Gilmore said are full inside the church, and lights.

After the special evening event, Gilmore explained the food bank will be back to regular operating hours every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

He said he hopes to rebuild the ministry building which housed the permanent food bank one day, but is currently having issues with the county regarding a water tank.

“I hope that within a year that we can work with the county to come up with maybe an alternative to the high cost of this water project,” Gilmore said.

“I’d like to see in a year a family life center with a food bank, a permanent food bank, a ministry area, some new bathrooms and our church totally repaired and up and running at full steam,” Gilmore added.

The church building itself sustained damage during the tornado, forcing services out of the building.

Gilmore said today that everyone is back “at home” in the church, but services are being held in their fellowship hall while repairs to the building continue.

Those in Polk County still in need of assistance who need to speak with an agency or needs food or clothing can visit the church, located at 3504 Mt. Tabor Road in Lakeland.

The event will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Gilmore said there will be people helping folks park in the area.

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