April 2, 2023

Al and Vivian Robinson are being hailed as heroes in their community.

When Al Robinson and his wife, Vivian, began preparing for the holiday, they had visions of welcoming their nine children home to Buffalo, New York, to spend time relaxing and cooking together.

But Mother Nature had other plans when a bomb cyclone exploded into a terrifying blizzard on Dec. 23.

Robinson, a pastor at Spirit Of Truth Urban Ministry, tells TODAY.com he and his wife had just completed food shopping for their family of eleven for the Christmas holiday when they heard about the storm.

“The kids are all grown, but we spend the holidays together,” Robinson, 52, says. “We got enough food for two weeks for all of us.”

The Robinsons, who live on the church’s campus, soon learned of the immediate need for shelter in their neighborhood of Lovejoy when 12-foot snow drifts began trapping residents.

“We had people that were freezing to death,” Robinson says, adding he and Vivian didn’t hesitate to open the church doors. “You could not drive and the windchill factor dipped down into the negative 20s, so it hurts your face to walk around.”

The couple enlisted the help of a friend with a snowmobile.

“He was the point guy for for the rescue operations and retrieving people and bringing them to the church,” Robinson tells TODAY.com. “He would get them along with their cats, dogs and whatever else that they might have and bring them.”

The Robinsons used a Facebook page to urge people to come to the church.

“We were so afraid that we would have someone outside our doors frozen to death that we broke the doors so they would not auto lock anymore,” Robinson says.

By Christmas Eve, the Robinsons had welcomed 120 people inside.

“By Christmas Day, we swelled to well over that (number),” Robinson tells TODAY.com of the number of Buffalo residents who were welcomed inside and fed. “People were elderly. We had a 92-year-old that needed oxygen. We had 9-month-olds that needed formula. We had so many things going on and every one of those needs were met.”

Robinson says the food that was purchased for their family that was slated to last two weeks was enough to feed approximately 130 people for two days.

“We had five different kinds of ethnic foods from Hispanic to Arabian and Italian,” Robinson says. “We had it all here. It was just fantastic.”

But the blessings didn’t stop there.

The couple, who recently sold a rehabilitation home to create a larger center, had just moved all the mattresses and beds from the home into the church center.

“We used every one of those mattresses and beds to house all these people,” Robinson says. “It was just crazy. I mean, it’s like all the life that we have lived before was for this one moment in time.”

Buffalo resident Maria Colón tells TODAY.com Robinson is “an angel” and referenced a Margaret J. Wheatley quote, which she says encompasses the Robinsons.

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about,” the quote reads.

The pastor credits his faith for the ability to assist others.

“People need to realize that if God has given them the ability to help someone else, it is incumbent upon them to help someone else,” he tells TODAY.com. “We weren’t expecting any of this chaos at all. God just knew what was going to happen before it even happened. And he already supplied the need before the need was needed.”

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