GATESVILLE — Most Christian preachers talk the Jesus talk. Deral McWhorter walks the walk.
The first time I saw McWhorter, he was unloading boxes from a pickup, stacking them outside an old storefront rescue mission where poor families come for free food, school supplies and second-hand clothes.
Dressed in jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt, he looked like a helper, a volunteer or one of the clients pitching in for an hour or two on a weekday morning.
But no, McWhorter is a regular at the storefront. Every day he’s there organizing the flow of canned goods and old coats, sorting and supervising and helping customers fill their needs.
Then I noticed McWhorter making regular stops at the local radio station to drop off recordings of sermons for Sunday replay. I found out he has been preaching at Cedar Ridge Church of Christ since 1988.
While talking the Jesus talk, McWhorter must have taken special notice of the parable in Matthew 25:34-40: “I was hungry and you gave me food. … I was naked and you gave me clothing. … As you did for one of the least of these my brothers, you did for me.”
As executive director of the Care Center at 105 North Seventh St., for the past 12 years, McWhorter, 58, has stacked a lot of boxes and fed and clothed more than his share of Gatesville’s hungry and naked.
He will be the first to tell you he has had a lot of help.
“This community is just a giving bunch,” McWhorter said.
Volunteers from three local organizations, including 12 churches, staff the center on a rotating basis. Students from Gatesville High School also help out.
The Care Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization incorporated in 2001. McWhorter, the only paid staff member, answers to a 14-member board of community leaders.
He is at the forefront of Gatesville’s annual Food for Families drive, and his “giving bunch” outshines larger cities in the region, year after year, in the campaign for donations.
Before the food drive commotion has died down, McWhorter is gearing up to “give out Christmas” to needy families, some of whom sleep in the parking lot behind the store the night before just to get a good place in line when the doors open at 8 a.m.
More Jesus talk from Matthew 19:14: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
McWhorter ensures that children in need get toys, food, clothes and school supplies at the Care Center. As the youngsters grow up and become Gatesville High School Hornets, he likes to keep an eye on them as the official timekeeper at basketball games and the stadium announcer for football games.
Practicing what he preaches is a full-time job for Deral McWhorter.