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Lithonia church's roof leak dampens efforts to serve families during holiday season

They used the small funds they had to patch the roof, but that turned out to be money down the drain. Now the problem is so bad, they have lost insurance coverage.

LITHONIA, Ga. — Just a week before Christmas, a local church said a roof leak is preventing them from serving food to thousands of families.

God’s Faith Pavilion Deliverance Ministries in Lithonia was founded in 2003 by pastors Benjamin and Winsome Nelson, but they soon realized the community needed more than spiritual nourishment.

“We saw the need of the families,” said Benjamin Nelson.

They added a food pantry that supports about 90 families with enough food, medicine and toiletries for an entire week. On some days, the car pickup line stretches from their front door down to Covington Highway.

“We see families coming in not only on the established dates when the pantry is open, but when we’re closed," Benjamin said. "There’s a constant need for the help. So whenever we can, we make ourselves available.” 

The couple will also meet families individually when they are in need between pickup dates.

But leaks in the roof and the cost to make repairs are putting a damper on how they're able to serve this holiday season. A collection of buckets is capturing water droplets as they fall down throughout the church.

“Well it’s heartbreaking," he said, adding that a quote from a contractor was for about $75,000. “We didn’t have the funding up front to really front that.”

They used the small funds they had to patch the roof but that turned out to be money down the drain. Now the problem is so bad, they have lost their insurance coverage.

“Because of the current condition they are not willing to insure us in the state that the building is in,” said Benjamin.

That also means they can't receive food donations from their main sources because of food safety guidelines.

“It’s draining my spirit. Not being able to reach some of the people we would normally reach so it’s a big setback," Winsome said.

The Nelsons can't help but think about the hundreds of families with children they would normally be feeding.

“With the holiday coming up we tend to want to give a lot more especially knowing that the kids are home now and not in school where they are able to receive breakfast and lunch," said Winsome.

While the Nelsons pray for a Christmas miracle to salvage the season, they said they refuse to quit.

“Don’t count us out. We’re not going to close our doors. We’re going to do our best to get the food we have here out," she said.

The pastors have a good amount of nonperishable foods and a limited amount of meat they can still give to families in need, they just can't receive more from food donors until the roof is fixed.

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