With tattooed sleeves and a trendy pair of kicks, Cole Dodd would be the last person anyone would suspect to be a pastor at a Baptist church. But First Baptist of Midway’s newest spiritual leader brings his own style to the job. Dodd moved to the position four months ago after serving as worship pastor, taking over for Mitch Wiessman. Wiessman had the longest tenure at the church at 17 years.
The growing congregation has adopted Dodd as its own. In turn, he’s been working hard to bring more community outreach programs to the church, which just celebrated its 115th anniversary.
“We’re a totally different church than what we were a year ago,” Dodd said. “I just have a heart for our community, and I want to minister.”
That heart got a chance to shine when worship minister Caleb Hyers told him that his father, Tim, had an opportunity to get an endless amount of baby formula. Tim works at the main post office hub in Tampa. Every day formula samples from companies get returned to the post office, usually because of an invalid address or a family that has moved.
The formula just sits at the site, and the post office is unable to do anything with it. Hyers said the church could go pick up the samples to use for a ministry.
That was about two months ago. Now the once-quiet church office bustles with families in need. The phone rings continually.
“It’s free formula,” Dodd said. “There are no strings attached. You don’t have to come to church.”
For the families who come to collect the formula, Dodd doesn’t record any addresses or phone numbers. No names either. He just wants to help out those in need.
The congregation has gotten involved, too. Every two weeks, a group of volunteers drives to the hub near the Tampa International Airport to load up a pickup truck with formula. They always come back with a bed full of formula. Last time, they filled a 12-foot covered trailer.
“We’ve got some really good people here,” Dodd said. “They’re so loving.”
On their trip, volunteers also pick up other samples that have been returned. They range from toys to toiletries. Out of those samples, they make bags for the homeless or struggling families and distribute them around the community.
And although they clean out the bins, the post office is full the next day.
“It’s an endless supply,” Dodd said. “Any company you could think of that sends out samples.”
In addition to their post office platoon, Dodd has started another ministry. Every Tuesday, a group goes out into the community surrounded the church off Midway Road in North Plant City. They knock on doors and make phone calls, asking if anyone needs help with anything.
In the two months of that project, they’ve given $2,000 to help neighbors with rent, utility and grocery bills and more.
“We’ve been here 115 years and we want to make an impact,” Dodd said.
There is a variety of formula available for free at First Baptist of Midway including brands Enfamil, Similac and Gerber. Regular formula and formula for sensitive stomachs are both readily available. In addition to formula, there are also supplements to wean babies off breast feeding.
To pick up formula visit the church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Thursday or call to make a special appointment.
Address: 2902 Midway Road, Plant City
Phone: (813) 752-7209.