Gainesville organizations combine for community outreach

Every week, Upper Room Ministries in Gainesville provides free food during Take What You Need Tuesdays.

On Tuesday June 15, the ministry partnered with UF Health, Humana, Island Doctors and others to provide the usual food along with employment opportunities, COVID-19 vaccines, health checkups and lunch from Terrell’s Bar-B-Que. 

Karl Anderson, senior pastor at Upper Room Ministries, said the ministry hosted a farmers market and job fair first in 2019 to impact the community by addressing physical as well as spiritual needs. 

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“It’s important for us to take a holistic approach, not just have church during the week,” Anderson said. 

He said taking care of both physical and spiritual needs is biblical and quoted 3 John 1:2, “It all intertwines; it all goes hand in hand,” Anderson said. 

This year, the ministry added a health clinic through UF Health and UF HealthStreet. Community health workers connect patients with other organizations who provide help with further healthcare or other diverse needs like utilities or food. 

Victoria Sims, director of operations for UF HealthStreet, said people can become HealthStreet members through these events which gives them access clothing closets, toiletries and useful events. 

“Really, it’s just to help bridge gaps and get people some of the things they deserve,” Sims said. 

At the job fair portion, Officer J.T. Jones works to find new employees for the Florida Department of Corrections by drawing in potential recruits with the offer of a $33,500 starting salary.

Since the pandemic began, he said less people have applied making his role in attracting new hires is more critical.

Jacob Clore, with Partnership for Strong Families, said it’s been a long time since they’ve been able to get into the community to connect and inform people. 

Monica Jackson showed up for the food giveaways. She’s been coming for the last couple of weeks since her dad and friends told her about it. Jackson is already connected with Health Street, so she plans to get her food and head home. 

Anderson said about 250 people come out weekly for the Tuesday food drives, but he expects double or triple the amount of attendees this week with the special job fair and health clinics. The ministry is also doubling the amount of food they receive, getting two box truck loads. 

“What last year has taught me is that we can’t really wait on tomorrow, even when showing affectionate love to people,” Anderson said. “People are here one day and gone the next.” 


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