By Penny Rathbun, The Celina Record
Vehicles were lined up from the church portico almost to the highway.
The drivers were waiting at the First Baptist Church of Celina for their monthly food allotments from the North Texas Food Bank.
It was the second Monday of the month, a busy time at the church when it comes to feeding the hungry.
The church has partnered with the North Texas Food Bank to once a month be a mobile food pantry. Clients apply at the church for boxes of food. They may have one box of food for every person living in the residence.
Volunteers check them off as they drive in to get their boxes. Other volunteers load the food into the vehicle. On Monday, they kept loading hundreds and hundreds of boxes, but their spirits remained cheerful.
“We’re helping our community,” Pastor Raymond Horne said. “We’re servicing a part of the county that is not being served. It helps First Baptist Church by providing food and delivering it. Without their help I’d be helping 10 families a month. This way I help 110 families.”
The boxes that don’t get picked up will be given to other people who need them within a day or two.
The North Texas Food Bank serves 13 counties in the North Texas area. NTFB staff members wanted to expand the agency’s services in Collin County. There are no large food banks in the Celina area.
NTFB staff members approached several organizations in the Celina area about becoming a mobile food pantry.
“Hunger is an issue right here in Collin County, right here in our back yard,” said Paul Wunderlich, North Texas Food Bank chief operating officer. “The typical person doesn’t realize it’s a problem.”
Wunderlich said Pastor Horne was the first to respond.
“I think he had the vision to see this,” Wunderlich said.
Both he and Horne said they think it is a good partnership. The church provides both clients in need of food and volunteers to distribute the boxes. The food bank collects and delivers the boxes of food.
Wunderlich said the food is going mostly to the working poor, people who have a job, but who don’t make enough to pay for necessities or people who have lost a job and are needing help for the first time. Each box weighs about 23 pounds, contains staple foods and will feed one person for a week.
After getting the food bank call and deciding to try the mobile food panty experiment, Horne said the church did a mass mailing in the 75009 ZIP code area that contained an application and announced a mobile food pantry was starting. Approved applicants received a voucher to pick up the boxes of food.
In November, the mobile food pantry’s first month of operation, boxes were distributed to 50 families. In December, the number was 75, in January 100. Last Monday about 109 people picked up boxes of food.
The Monday before mobile food pantry day the church mails out postcard reminders to those who are on the list for receiving boxes of food.
Horne said this is so much better than what the church was doing. He would give people gift cards from Brookshire’s on a haphazard basis. Now they can sign up for the mobile food pantry. Often extra food pantry boxes are given to help them immediately.
He said he hopes to eventually be able to distribute perishable food and start a monthly medical clinic.
“The North Texas Food Bank has stepped up and is meeting needs,” Horne said. “Because of the economic downturn the need has increased hundredfold. It’s little things like this that can help people stay above water.”
Call 972-382-3171 for information.
To find out more about other food banks and services available in Collin County, call Assistance Center of Collin County at 972-422-1850.