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Low-profile Food Bank of Brownsville helps get food to people who need it

By Jacqueline Armendariz, Brownsville Herald

836 days ago   Article ID# 1553323
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Food Bank of Brownsville

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS (Brownsville Herald) - The homeless children of Brownsville are the catalyst for the creation of the Food Bank of Brownsville a year ago this month, President Ken Parks said.

The small non-profit organization, which is a subordinate of the Brownsville Ministerial Association (BMA) and Brownsville Teen Center, has purposely kept a low-profile while primarily focusing on building relationships and helping people who need food, Park said.

He said the food bank wants to keep locally donated items in Brownsville by distributing them through local organizations. More than anything, the food bank is about a hand up, not a hand out, Parks said.

"We were really birthed through seeing the need in the situation with these kids," he said. "Everything we do stays in Brownsville."

The organization has worked with University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College students in creating snack packs. The food bank has also teamed up with the Brownsville Independent School Districtís Youth Connection program aimed at helping homeless youth to find individuals in need.

The organization relies on the BMAís 80 churches of different dominations to get the food to where itís needed, Parks said.

More than 900 Brownsville youths are classified as homeless by the school district, according to food bank data. Under federal standards this means they may lack a fixed nighttime residence or permanent housing. They may live out of cars, in public spaces or in other housing considered substandard.

With UTB-TSC students, the food bank has visited places like Plaza Square Motel, Value Place Hotel and the Ozanam Center to deliver the snack packs created for children living there.

The food bank reports that it has delivered more than 3,000 bags of groceries, snack packs and plates of food while working with other groups.

The organizationís website lists 16 locations around the city, mostly churches, where individuals may drop off food item donations.

The Food Bank of Brownsville isnít a typical setup. There is no permanent warehouse and food is given out through other organizations.

"We donít store for the next apocalypse," Parks said. "Weíre not a general public food bank."

The organization is small. Parks said itís run on about $300 a month.

"You see our fleet," he said while gesturing to his white Impala at one of the donation drop off locations this past Thursday.

The trunk of his car is all thatís needed, he said, as the food bank works closely with other groups. He said over the last year about $2,000 has been spent to distribute about $15,000 worth of food.

"The thing is to draw on the resources of the community," Parks said. "Weíre forming relationships. Thatís what itís about."

There are federally and state funded programs that help children by providing free meals at schools, either breakfast, lunch or once a day during the summertime. But Parks said the Food Bank of Brownsville is there for moments when those resources arenít available. The priority is helping children, he said, but the rest of the family should have food available, too.

The food bank, which is accepting volunteers, is also a concentrated effort for people who want to help, he said.

ĎHappiness is a good breakfastí

Every week Parks makes the rounds collecting and giving out food.

On Thursday, at a warehouse with space donated by Saga Freight Logistics, Rigoberto Castillo was a volunteer with the Good Neighbor Settlement House making a pick-up of snacks in bags that read "Happiness is a good breakfast."

After 12 years of volunteering, he said the food bank was definitely helping the Good Neighbor Settlement House meet its mission of giving three meals a day to the homeless and needy.

"I think itís great. We used to go to McAllen," he said of picking up food.

Castillo said the difference a meal makes for one person is something heís witnessed.

"I love it there. Everyone is treated fairly," he said of Good Neighbor Settlement House. "You have to be there to really appreciate seeing people get to eat and be full and then go to work."

At another pick up location, Pastor Michael Garren helped Parks with juice, peas and vegetables donated in a Home Depot cart sitting at First United Methodist Church. Good Neighbor Settlement House was founded by the church.

"We try to help every one who comes through the door whenever we can," Garren said.

He said the BMA is being pro-active in trying to meet the needs of the city along with other organizations like the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley.

"Itís not like a circumstance where weíre in competition," Garren said. "Weíre here to reach out in as many ways as possible to feed the hungry people across the Valley. If we would feed all the hungry no one is going to complain."

Parks and Garren quote scripture when talking about what it means to help those in need. Garren said itís religious for those helping, but there are "no strings attached."

"We canít solve all the problems, but it gives us an opportunity to reach out to the community," he said.

Both men stress that the efforts of the food bank are not to feel pity for the poor in a potentially self-righteous manner.

"I donít like that attitude. We all put our pants on one leg at a time," Parks said. "Weíre not helping so we donít feel guilty going shopping at Dillardís on Christmas."

Copyright 2014 Brownsville Herald   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 836 days ago   Article ID# 1553323

Food Bank of Brownsville    Visit Website

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