By BOB OLIVER
HEIGHTS — The First Assembly of God’s FirstWorks FreeStore, 5650 S. Telegraph Road, didn’t just get heavily damaged in the flooding that struck the metro Detroit area Aug. 11. It also was subject to a burglary that night.
Just over two weeks later, the pantry, which provides groceries for as many as 500 people from the surrounding communities every week, re-opened Friday outside of the church.
First Assembly of God Assistant Pastor Joseph Sazyc said the entire lower level of the church was flooded, which is where the FreeStore stores its food and runs its operation.
He said almost a ton of frozen food has had to be disposed of and at least one of the pantry’s refrigerators was damaged while other appliances are still being evaluated.
“The elevator was also rendered inoperable and requires major repairs,” Sazyc said. “The elevator is essential for bringing the large amounts of food in for distribution and for the many clients to enter and exit the pantry who are physically challenged in some way.”
Because of the damaged elevator, the pantry opened outside of the church, which Sazyc said will continue until the elevator is fixed.
The pantry staff is made up entirely of volunteers, who, along with help from church members and additional help from members of the Metro Life Church of Detroit, worked long hours to clean up after the flood by disinfecting, ripping up carpeting, tearing out drywall and throwing away many items that were damaged by the flood.
“We are in the very worst area in terms of sections of the city that were affected by the flooding,” Sazyc said. “Usually we go out and try to help and assist after a disaster and this time people in the community, although they were affected too, came by and asked if we needed any help. It really has been wonderful.”
In addition to replacing items destroyed by the flood, Sazyc said the church is still recovering from a burglary that occurred in the early morning hours after the flood.
Sazyc said several entryways were damaged and a number of the church’s valuables, including guitars, computers and a video camera were stolen.
“The theft was an added blow to the church which has been reaching out to the community in various capacities, the food pantry being just one,” Sazyc said. “This happened only a week after the battery of the truck that is used to pick up food for the pantry was stolen from the vehicle.”
The pantry at First Assembly of God has been operating since 1998, when it was opened by Taylor resident and Detroit Public Schools teacher Mike Harris, who began to collect groceries for some of his needy students.
Sazyc said donations are being accepted and volunteers are welcome for the FreeStore and the church as the restoration process continues.
Parties interested in information on volunteering may go to www.firstworks.us or call 313-292-1220.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected].)