INDIANAPOLIS — Ke'tre L. Dickens, Martindale Church's Senior Pastor, calls it a "drive-by pull up and prayer."
It's what he and his church have been doing since the coronavirus pandemic started in March — giving as much as 400 free meals away a day in one of Indianapolis's most poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
"They closed the church, but they can't close ministry though," Pastor Dickens said.
Martindale Church is one of the several churches that sit on Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue, on the city's near north side.
"We live in one of the most impoverished economic zip codes in the state. We get the most return of citizens out of jail and prison to this zip code, area, and neighborhood," Dickens said. "Even when they come out of a transitional facility, they come to this neighborhood, so, you know, if people have less money, laid off, what do they need the most? Food."
The church doesn't ask for ID; they don't need forms filled out — all they need to know is how many people are in your home that needs food.
"A lot of pantries, they do good work, but if you've given them a box of powder and stuff like that with no eggs, no water, or whatever to cook with, that's problematic. These meals are already cooked, all they have to do is put heat to them," the pastor said.
The meals are given out in 90-minute increments, typically between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The pastor asks the driver how many meals they need; someone bags them, the pastor gives them a flier and says a prayer with them.
Through a partnership with Second Helping, Martindale Church can continue to supply the free meals to the neighborhood. No more than 50 containers are sitting outside at a time, but the rest are held in a fridge. Whatever meals are not used that day, are given to healthcare workers at Creekside Health and Rehabilitation for lunch.
No one is more thankful for this opportunity to serve the community than Pastor Dickens. He says he feels closer to his community and the residents surrounding his church.
"I'm thankful, to be honest, because I'm thinking... I've been here 11 years, why weren't we doing more stuff like this in these 11 years?" the pastor said.
Pastor Dickens has had people in the neighborhood who're experiencing homelessness sleep on his church's front stoop.
"As a matter of fact, one of the guys we have served a few times is coming back today to serve. That's the third time ... where people were being serviced have come back in the future, sat here, and worked shifts. So, I'm thankful for those opportunities."
Through this Second Helpings partnership and the growth of community involvement, Pastor Dickens has also been able to start a neighborhood garden. Once the vegetables are ready, community residents can feel free to come and pick, or the church will pick and give away.
"It's been a beautiful partnership with Second Helpings," Pastor Dickens said. "We're going to do this until the pandemic slows up."