By Marlee Ginter

STOCKTON (CBS13) – Migrant families lined up outside the Zion Lutheran Church in Stockton on Sunday.

Every one of them has struggled during the pandemic. It’s a community hit hard by COVID and many have lost their jobs. They listened to prayers and words of encouragement, and one of the biggest blessings of all came in a $500 check to help them pay for food and rent.

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“I think it’s really cool because, especially, since I’m going to school. And with part-time work and part-time school, sometimes I don’t have enough for the bills and this helps a lot with that,” said Elizabeth Hernandez.

Hernandez has struggled to pay rent during the pandemic, but, finally, she has some relief.

One by one, names were called out. Reverend Nelson Gonzalez with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America out of Stockton handed out checks to 36 migrant families.

“They’re people, they have families. They contribute a lot to this country,” said Rev. Gonzalez.

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They’ve distributed more than a million dollars since last May, helping more than a thousand families through the pandemic.

“Many of them are behind their rent. They’re able to at least pay something and feel more comfortable that they’re able to at least pay something, or even for food,” said Rev. Gonzalez.

The money came from Faith in the Valley through the California Immigrant Resilience Fund and reaches faith organizations and migrant groups around the region in an effort to help those who’ve had their hours cut or lost their jobs altogether.

“California has the 6th largest economy in the world by itself, and a large segment of that success is due because of the hard work of migrant workers,” said Rev. Gonzalez.

“It’s really nice and encouraging to see everybody coming together with this and to know that we’re not alone with everything,” said Hernandez.

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Right now, they have more referrals from people needing help than they have money to hand out. Rev. Gonzalez is hoping to raise awareness so more people will donate to Faith in the Valley.