SANTA ANA — A well-organized alliance of churches and religious groups handed out 45,000 pounds of food a convoy of tractor-trailers brought as part of a three-day assault on hunger in the city with many of Orange County's poorest people.
More than 5,000 families stood in line at Eddie West Stadium in Santa Ana on Saturday to pick up bags of groceries handed out by more than 1,000 volunteers in an operation cut short by rain but still considered a success.
Remaining food will be dispensed after an 8:30 a.m. Easter service at the stadium today that will feature religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.
"It was the first time in the history of the city that this many churches have come together, and this is what needs to happen," said Lee DeLeon, national director of the Missouri-based Convoy of Hope, which operates the trucks that carry food and volunteers to communities in need.
DeLeon's organization joined the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization, Robertson's Operation Blessing and Church Care America, along with 33 local churches, to supply money, food and volunteers for the nondenominational event.
"This is something my wife and I love to do--help where help is needed," said John Lopez of Redlands, who works in construction during the week and volunteers on many weekends.
Wearing a jacket inscribed with the logo of the Promise Keepers, an evangelical men's ministry, Lopez said he and his wife have been spending time with Church Care America for two years.
Fellow volunteer Johnny Barraga of Corona, who manages a receiving department, said the food programs are a good way to make churches work together.
"This is a nationwide effort to break down the walls and bring them together," he said.
While needy families waited in line for their groceries on Saturday, they were given hot dogs, beverages and snacks and listened to musical performances and sermons over loudspeakers. Parents collected bags of cereal, staples, boxed and canned goods and canned and bottled beverages. Children were given toys.
"The whole purpose is to help people in need," said Abel Perez, director of Works of Love, a benevolent outreach program at Templo Calvario in Santa Ana. "It's free of cost to them to alleviate their need and give them hope--hope here but also eternal hope."