West Avenue Compassion may not be well known, but the people it serves say the food pantry and service provider is a lifesaver.
The organization, located at 10715 West Ave. in the San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene, was created a decade ago by the Rev. Matt Rice. He wanted to provide provisions and assistance to families living near the North Side ministry.
“Part of the vision of the church is compassionate ministries, to do something for the community,” said WAC Executive Director Eric Buell.
With the coronavirus outbreak and recent surges leading to layoffs and furloughs, WAC is now serving families requiring first-time aid.
“Last week we had 30 new clients – folks who had never been short of food before,” Buell said.
When it launched, the group partnered with the San Antonio Food Bank to provide groceries for those in need. The relationship continues today.
The nonprofit does more than just dispense groceries. WAC’s mission is to meet the immediate needs of the community, while furnishing residents with tools to move forward, officials said.
It also offers classes in English as a second language, GED testing, job listings and a clothes depot.
“We serve anywhere from between 270 to 400 people on any given Tuesday, when the food pantry is open,” Buell said. “Over Thanksgiving week, we served 416 folks, but our average is around 300 people a week.”
He expects the number to grow as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“You see a range of people here,” said WAC development director Delaine White. “But, especially since COVID-19, people pull up in their nice cars, dressed well, but when they share their stories, it’s about having lost everything. Many have no real income due to COVID-19. They have no jobs. They have no food. They are sad and frightened.”
For Estela MacDonald and her spouse, the pantry was a huge help, she said.
“My husband had lost his job. He had been putting off radiation for cancer because he knew the treatment would interfere with work. But, he lost his job anyhow. We had very little money. And, very little food,” she said.
A neighbor told them about WAC.
“They were there for us,” MacDonald said. “It was hard to ask for help or to receive help. It was a blessing to receive food. It made me feel super, super blessed. I now volunteer every week.”
White said MacDonald’s story is common, as people first come there looking for assistance, and then become helpers to others.
“We live on volunteerism,” Buell said. “Since we’re a nonprofit we need all the volunteers we can find. COVID has limited our volunteer corps, which used to be heavily weighted to seniors. But, they are not coming out now because of the coronavirus.”
He complimented The Winston School San Antonio’s Interact Club for the teenage helpers it provided over the summer. Interact is a Rotary International-sponsored service club for young people.
Both Buell and White also praised Andy Villa, CEO at META Consultants, Comprehensive Home Health Inc. and at Comprehensive Hospice Care Inc.
Villa and his businesses gave $10,000 to WAC and didn’t stop there.
“I saw what a great job they were doing and I read on one of their flyers that they needed more volunteers and donations,” Villa said. “We decided to do more for WAC.”
They bought and donated 400 turkeys for Thanksgiving food baskets, and also gave hundreds of toys and other items for the nonprofit’s Christmas pantry.
“I was really happy to see our employees get behind the effort to help WAC,” Villa said. “I have a history of working with nonprofit organizations and understand funding is always a challenge, and so we look for ways to give back.”
Villa encourages others to contribute to organizations like WAC.
“It really is our moral obligation to do so,” he said.
The group’s goal is to see people get back on their feet.
“We ask our recipients how can we help you not be here,” White said.
For more, call 210-573-2847 or visit westavenuecompassion.org.