The Saturday morning heat didn’t keep hundreds of families in need from driving to Kay Rodgers Park to have their vehicles loaded with food and other necessities.
“Antioch after the Flood,” put on by Antioch for Youth and Family, served food to approximately 2,092 people in 601 families for three hours at the Kay Rodgers Park Expo Center. While families impacted by the 500-year Arkansas River flood two months ago were the focus of the event, volunteers served anyone who needed assistance.
“What we’re doing is recovery work,” said Antioch Marketing Director Ken Kupchick. “The families who have been hurt by this will be hurting for more than a year.”
The Arkansas River flood in late May and early June affected approximately 500 homes and 1,000 residents in Fort Smith, according to city estimates. It also submerged the entire town of Moffett just inside Oklahoma.
Antioch Director Charolette Tidwell said she was prompted to hold the event after touring flood damage in Moffett, which was evacuated during the flood. Tidwell also said she wanted to address the ever-present need for children in Fort Smith to have nutritious food, especially while school is out.
Approximately 21.5 percent of families who were served food at the event said they were directly impacted by the flood, according to Antioch numbers. Many were from Moffett and Fort Smith. About 29.9 percent of families who received food at the event had previously sought food assistance from Antioch.
“It’s everybody who’s coming through,” Tidwell said.
The event, held from 9 a.m.-noon at the park, drew volunteers to load vehicles with chicken, fruits, vegetables, cereal, cleaning supplies and more. They were supplied by OK Foods, Walmart and the River Valley Regional Food Bank.
Kupchick said he and Tidwell initially prepared food for 1,200 families with the hope of serving 1,000 on Saturday morning. He wasn’t disappointed with the 600 families they had served by 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Kupchick also said the event was a success because of how it engaged many new volunteers, especially the youth. Volunteer Natalie Tucker, 13, said she was at the park packing boxes on Friday afternoon and then back to help the next morning.
″(They were) motivated, perhaps, by the flood, or perhaps by Charolette’s legacy,” he said. “However we get it, we’ll take it.”
“Kids have proven to us that if you show them community and give to them as we do at Antioch, they will give back,” Tidwell said.
Tidwell said Kupchick in the next week will visit Moffett to help the community with flood relief. Kupchick said the Moffett community is “splintered” from the flood because of its displaced residents.
As for Antioch’s efforts in Fort Smith, Tidwell said she will hold a second event in the coming week to supply families with food. They will then give any left over food to the schools they serve, she said.
“You get to help other people, especially the people who need it the most. These people suffered from the flood, so to help give them food and stuff that could help them provide for their family, it’s really cool to see how much it’ll impact them and the community,” Tucker said of the event.