A Waco church has expanded its food pantry into a Family Resource Center with the ultimate goal of helping individuals become self-sufficient.

Family of Faith Worship Center Pastor Ruben Andrade Jr. said he doesn’t want the church’s new venture to be just a handout. He said the congregation aims to help its community set and meet goals to work toward improved quality of life and help hold individuals accountable with a case management plan.

Andrade said the venture wouldn’t be possible without the community partners that helped fill the void in expertise needed for this new journey, including Julio Olvera, who offered up free space to give the resource center more room.

Marcia Beverly, the church’s administrator, said she remembers the first day the church opened its doors to start handing out free food. The line of people was long, and it was heartbreaking, Beverly said.

“They look normal like me, but nobody knows what we’re all going through,” she said. “Just to sit down and talk to everybody, is kind of like, whoa. The need is there.”

Beverly said mostly the working poor come in looking for assistance as they are often faced with the decision to keep the electricity on or buy food.

“I’m helping today but maybe down the road, I might be the one that’s in need also,” she said.

Andrade said the church was originally handing out free food every Friday. The congregation was soon serving 125 to 150 families a week. About four months ago, Andrade said, he felt God telling him he needed to build more of a relationship with those individuals.

“I’m talking to myself and like ‘Really, God, you want me to talk to 150 families one at a time?’ ” he said with a laugh.

About 150 individual conversations later, Andrade said, he realized that what the community needed was about more than food and that something needed to be done.

Andrade said Olvera stopped by the church one day to see what was going on, and not much later, called to offer shared office space for free.

Andrade, who has been the pastor for 10 years, said he jumped on the offer.

The church’s Family Resource Center at 2403 Suite B on Waco Drive, tucked between 24th and 25th streets, operates by volunteers from the church on an appointment-based schedule between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to noon the first and third Saturdays of each month.

“I tell people all the time, this is not for the homeless. We’re not stereotyping anyone. This is not for the poor. This is for anyone who wants to be blessed,” Andrade said.

“This is for anyone who needs a little blessing. We’re here to bless you. I can assure you the majority of the people we serve are the working poor.”

The resource center is stocked with food, clothes, diapers, personal hygiene items and bottled water among other things often donated by community members.

Andrade said the center also has partnered with Shepherd’s Heart food pantry, Caritas of Waco, the Methodist Children’s Home and Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

Through the partnering agencies, the center provides case management for each interested individual that comes through. Case managers meet with the individuals or families and talk about goals, resources and options to help take steps needed to improve their life.

“Obviously we’re not professionals, and that’s not our area. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Andrade said.

Assistance could simply be referring someone to the right organization, he said.

The church also will offer monthly classes at the center covering parenting skills, mental health, homeownership and financial literacy, among other topics.

“We’re not going to preach to you. We’re not going to try and convert you to our faith, but we are going to let you know we’re here if you just want someone to pray for you,” Andrade said.

Olvera, who owns the Waco-based Spanish language newspaper La Cara, a real estate company and an income tax office, said his 1,300-square-foot office on Waco Drive was mostly empty. It was a natural fit to invite Andrade and his church to use half the space for their needs, he said.

Olvera said it was about a year ago that he finally got to meet Andrade after noticing what a big impact the pastor was having in the community.

“It’s nonstop. It’s one thing after another that he’s just doing,” Olvera said. “One of the things we love about what he does is it’s for everybody. He never pushes religion onto anybody. It’s just open to everyone and anybody.”

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Family Resource Center

What: The Family Resource Center is operated by Family of Faith Worship Center. It offers food, free classes, mentoring and supplies by appointment.

Where: 2403 Suite B Waco Drive.

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays; and 9 a.m. to noon on the first and third Saturdays of the month.

For more information or to donate to the resource center, email pastor@familyoffaithwc.org, call 235-4495, or go to familyoffaithwc.org.

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