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Buffalo pastors rescued more than 100 people and housed them in their church during the historic blizzard

<i>Courtesy Al Robinson</i><br/>Families line up for food at Spirit Of Truth Urban Ministry in Buffalo
Courtesy Al Robinson
Courtesy Al Robinson
Families line up for food at Spirit Of Truth Urban Ministry in Buffalo

By Amir Vera and Justin Gamble, CNN

Al and Vivian Robinson added more than 100 people to their family in the last few days — all thanks to the couple’s kindness in the face of a deadly storm.

The couple, both pastors at Spirit of Truth Urban Ministry in Buffalo, New York, rescued and housed a total of 154 people in the last few days as a historic blizzard pummeled the city, leaving thousands without power, others stranded in their homes or cars and left Erie County with a death toll of 39.

“We just jumped into action and was able to deliver up to 154 people to the church, to not freeze to death,” Al Robinson told CNN Thursday. “I wish that I could say that for everyone.”

The rescue efforts began Friday, Robinson said, when a worrisome amount of snow began piling up in the city. Robinson and his wife realized their church was the only building in the vicinity with power.

He said he began calling neighbors, checking on their well-being and inviting them to stay in his church.

Vivian Robinson then posted a simple message on Facebook: “If you’re stuck in the lovejoy area, our doors to the church are open to you.” Her post also included the church’s phone number and address.

From that point, Al Robinson said people who were stranded on a nearby street began trickling into the church.

“It started with like, 10 people, two big families, and then it went to 30, then it went to 60, then went to 90, then it went to 100, 120, 128 was the last time I counted, but it went all the way up to 154,” he said. “We had people sleeping everywhere in our church, but we were the only ones with the electricity.”

Vivian Robinson continued posting on Facebook to get the word out. Videos served as makeshift journals for viewers and photo galleries showed both the devastation of the snowstorm along with the warmth of a community coming together in a time of need.

Al Robinson also stressed that of the 154 people who took refuge in his church, maybe three were members of his congregation.

“Honestly, it was total strangers. We had Asian people here, we had Hispanic people here, we had Arabic speaking people here, we had Nigerians here,” Robinson said. “We had just every possible minority was in our church, and we were all getting together, we celebrated Christmas together.”

People began leaving the church Monday and Tuesday as Buffalo thawed out from the storm, Robinson said.

“It’s actually wonderful, because I have this huge family now that where we are, you know, trauma bonded through the storm and it’s just, it’s just beautiful,” Robinson said. “These people are so filled with love… It’s incredible.”

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