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Local pastor champions COVID-19 testing and civic engagement during pandemic
2020 has been one of the most challenging years of the past decade due to the COVID-19 pandemic and presidential election. But one Dayton-area pastor has been a champion in getting people tested and registered to vote despite the challenges.
Peter Edward Matthews, the lead pastor of McKinley United Methodist Church in West Dayton, has spent the past 17 weeks providing the community with opportunities to get tested and keep themselves safe from COVID-19.
“I believe in making humanity human again,” he said. “To date, we’ve had over 2,100 people get tested and received monetary donations from all around the world to support the cause.”
The state of Ohio’s latest numbers published on Nov. 5 indicate that Montgomery County has reached very high exposure and spread of COVID-19. It has been a rough year for Daytonians with schools and local businesses closing amid a new normal.
Despite the growing challenges, Matthews has partnered with local churches and organizations like Omega Baptist Church and Primary Health Solutions to provide free, safe and confidential COVID-19 testing.
The idea was inspired by one of his close friends campaigning for Black health and medical professionals in Philadelphia.
“My big bro was in Philly rallying around Black doctors during the beginning of COVID,” Matthews said. “He inspired me to write to the Vice President of Primary Health Solutions — I told them to bet on me for the next 10 weeks and we got to work.”
He described the partnership as a need in the community.
“Ministry is a team sport,” Matthews said. “You’ll see a church member greeting you when you pull into the parking lot. We have Nicole Miller educating folks and working the Census table. You can drive up and get tested for free, which takes less than 20 minutes.”
In addition to free testing, he has led delivering food bags to at-risk populations, including the elderly, who cannot leave their home due to COVID conditions.
“We also partnered with the Wesley Center to feed 64 kids in DeSota Bass and Hilltop communities, among other donations,” Matthews recalled.
He said that for things to be different, people have to take different actions.
“It’s pushing the needle versus being popular,” Matthews described. “We have to weigh our options and best usage of time because there’s a scarcity of emotional health and resources in the ‘hood.”
Recently, he partnered with the Ohio Unity Coalition, founded by Peter Talley, to register and mobilize voters for the local and national election. Matthews and his team phone banked, held voting trainings to educate volunteers on voter registration and hosted virtual panels with local incumbents to encourage and educate voters.
He is incredibly vocal about politics on social media and uses his platform to enlighten others about his community-based and religious views.