Story and Photos by Ashley Moss
At one point on November 14, the cars lined up for food and COVID-19 testing at historically Black Paul Quinn College (PQC) stretched all the way to U.S. Highway 45. The overwhelming response was the result of persistent efforts to serve the Highland Hills community while the pandemic rages on, supporters said Saturday.
“We didn’t advertise anything but turkeys on purpose, so the canned food and dry goods are extra,” said Bruce Brinson, Chief Financial Officer at PQC. Saturday’s food giveaway included more than 11,000 pounds of food in addition to 200 turkeys.
PQC has offered free COVID-19 testing and food boxes to help area residents as part of its “Safe for My City” initiative just about every weekend for the last few months but Saturday’s event was the result of a distinct partnership between PQC and The Dallas Police Department Office of Community Affairs, African American Outreach initiative.
The group exists to engage, build trust and create meaningful relationships with the Black community.
“A lot of times our communities are undeserved but everyone is welcome. The help we’re offering isn’t just limited to the Black community,” said Brinson.
The unemployment rate across the country fell to about seven percent in October but many are concerned that that number could shoot up again as COVID-19 cases continue to climb and states put pandemic restrictions back in place. Texas is the first state in the country to surpass a million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and Dallas County ranks sixth for top 50 confirmed cases by county according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“Hopefully with the resurgence of COVID-19 more people will take advantage of the opportunity to get tested as well as getting food,” said event organizer Mandrell Drakes, who serves as Community Outreach Representative for the DPD Office of Community Affairs. “The tests offered here produce results in as few as 72 hours.”
According to Paul Quinn President, Dr. Michael J. Sorrell, the “Quinnite Nation is committed to doing its part in the fight against COVID-19.
“Having watched people we know and love suffer from this scourge, we have a unique understanding of the threat the virus poses,” he said previously in a statement. “We are looking forward to supporting the City of Dallas and everyone else who is working tirelessly to save lives and protect our community.”
That sense of volunteerism reached David W. Carter High School, a public school located in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, about seven miles from the College.
“We realized there were families that are suffering at Carter High School,” said LTC Bernard Taylor, the Senior Army Instructor for the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Program. “With a program like (Saturday’s event), we realized we could serve them while also reaching the community,” he added, noting that about 12 students volunteered at the event on Saturday.
“We normally have another annual service learning project that we do but because of this year’s circumstances we decided to come and help out here at Paul Quinn with the food drive,” said Cadet/LTC Adia Larzeia of Dallas.
The high school senior and JROTC Battalion Commander hopes to mirror the work being done at PQC by attending a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in Texas. “I can keep giving back to the community,” she said. “Being at an HBCU will motivate me to do more for myself and others.”
Paul Quinn College has extended its free COVID-19 testing site every Saturday in the month of November from 10 am-4pm. Anyone can get tested, there are no symptoms or insurance requirements. There will also be food box giveaways every Saturday from 10 am-12 pm or while supplies last.