ORLANDO, Fla. – Faith Boles is one of the thousands of live entertainment performers who was laid off from their dream job due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re just taking it one day, one moment, one minute at a time. That’s all you really can do. I think 2020 taught us that you really can’t plan anything,” said Boles, who’s been a professional actor for 17 years.
In 2013, she moved from Savannah, Georgia to Orlando where her past seven years were spent performing at Walt Disney World until Dec. 30, 2020 when the company let her go as part of a massive layoff of cast members.
“This is all I know--is performing. It’s a passion, it’s a huge passion of mine. It breaks my heart that this pandemic has completely, you know, done this to my career but also just my industry,” Boles said.
The industry of actors, technicians, stage crews, musicians, and dancers continue to push through the waves of COVID-19 to make ends meet. When it comes to putting food on the table, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando is helping them every Tuesday with their Supporting Hearts event. It’s a meal assistance event now in its ninth month.
“We’ve been averaging about 170 cars, which you know, if you do the math, each car represents at least two folks, if not a family of four. So, the need is ginormous,” Steve MacKinnon, a member of the church, said. “We’re trying to help our community at large, and that industry has been devastated since the shutdown, from Broadway in New York to cruise lines to theme parks.”
MacKinnon said about 80% of the volunteers who help at the food drives are from the performing arts industry.
“I myself have volunteered a few times as well and I’ve also been able to take the food home for me and my roommate,” Boles said.
But for St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, the mission goes beyond providing a meal. During the food entertainment events, MacKinnon said performers will dress up to greet fellow performers as they drive by to pick up food while music is played in the background.
“We’ll have groups of performers that haven’t seen each other for months and they gather out in the parking lot and they will stay out in their cars and sit in a large circle and get to connect with folks that they might not have seen,” MacKinnon said. “Hope, inspiration; some entertainment to our affected community as they come through and try to bring some hope to these folks, not just food, not just a meal but also make it an experience as they come, and they can connect with this community, which they’ve been separated from for so long.”
Since the start of the global pandemic, the performing arts industry has not been able to operate again like other industries.
“That industry cannot come back and everything else has slowly been starting but if you look at the percentage of jobs in this industry, it’s decimated right now and there’s no work for folks, so we’re trying to stand in the gap,” MacKinnon said.
It’s a gap Boles hopes will soon be a story of the past. For now, she’s keeping her faith alive.
“My prayer is that Orlando can just come together and that we’re able to get through this,” Boles said. “What makes the theme parks come alive is the entertainment. You know, without actors, without people walking around with different characters and things of that nature it’s just a carnival, it’s just a carnival with just backdrops and rides.”
Every Tuesday the Supporting Hearts meal distribution takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church on 4851 S. Apopka-Vineland Road in Orlando.
To make a donation in support of their efforts, visit www.st.lukes.org/supportarts.