County’s communities support, are supported by local food pantries

by Cristin Parker
David Peters, driver of the Sheltering Arms Coalition’s mobile diner hands out meals in a Rusk neighborhood recently. David Peters, driver of the Sheltering Arms Coalition’s mobile diner hands out meals in a Rusk neighborhood recently.

Food pantries across Cherokee County continue to provide food boxes to their ever-growing number of clients and fresh produce to the community at large – and continue needing the community’s support to help them do it.

HOPE (Helping Others Pursue Enrichment) Inc.’s Manna Pantry has added two Saturdays a month to its food distribution schedule. The next Saturday distribution is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., May 9.

“We helped more than 1,000 of our neighbors, here in Cherokee County, last month in our Manna Pantry,” HOPE officials posted. “We are still serving through this crisis. If you need help with food, call HOPE and we will deliver your items curbside.”

HOPE also provides fresh produce, free to anyone in the community on a first-come-first-served basis. Produce racks are filled every day at 11 a.m., outside HOPE’s office, 595 S. Ragsdale St., Jacksonville. Produce is usually available every day. Available items differ every day.

The Jacksonville community also continues to support and receive support from The Clothes Closet & More, as well. The organization has been providing sack lunches to people on Fridays and Saturdays to help supplement families when HOPE is closed over the weekends and recently put out a call for donations of food items.

“Thank you all for the fantastic response to our need for sack lunch supplies,” Closet Director Mickey Gear posted. “Your generosity overwhelms me.”

Anyone in need of food for the weekend can visit The Clothes Closet & More, S. Main St., Jacksonville.

Rusk’s Good Samaritan is still distributing food boxes from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month.

Good Sam President Mona Burford shared on April 15, the most recent food distribution day, “At the end of the day 148 vehicles had driven through. That’s a lot of families!”

She also posted a special thank you to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Skyview Unit in Rusk for donating two boxes of snacks for kids.

“Folks were so happy to see all the Pop-Tarts, cookies, cereals, and other goodies that kids just love,” Burford posted.

The Good Samaritan’s next distribution days will be Wednesday, May 6, and May 20, 190 E. Second St., Rusk.

“We recommend that you come as early as possible; line up along Sycamore Street; and remain in your vehicle,” organizers reported. “If you need to sign up for pantry food as a new client that will be done at the same time.”

Alto Food Pantry has been able to plan a bonus distribution day on Tuesday, May 5, thanks to the quick support of its community.

On April 16, Alto resident Kelly Jo Curry posted on social media on behalf of the Pantry seeking assistance on some major upkeep on the Pantry’s trailer.

“Wanted to put this out there and see if there is anyone or a group of folks that would like to help,” Currey posted on her Facebook page. “The Alto Food Pantry is in need of new tires and decking for the trailer used to haul food from Tyler to Alto.

“Through hard work yesterday (April 15) there were more than 130 families from our town that received food from the pantry. The Alto Food Pantry does a wonderful job helping people in our community and now they need a little help. Thanks in advance any help that you can give.”

In less than a week, the trailer had new tires and enough donations had been collected to purchase materials to replace the deck, too.

“Thank you, donors, for your generosity,” Pantry Director Sui Chapa posted. “Your donations have allowed us to continue to serve the community during these unprecedented and trying times. In your honor, we are adding a bonus distribution on Tuesday, May 5. Thank you again on behalf of the pantry and the families we serve.”

Chapa also posted ‘a great big “You Rock!”’ to Valerie Lozier and her children, Annastasia, Gabriel and Jodie for raising $89 to support the Alto Food Pantry; a ‘deep and heartfelt thank you’ for an anonymous donation of $200; and another ‘thank you’ to volunteers Tony Chapa, Janet Townsend, Jean and Jeanie Smiley, Velma Skinner, Sylvia Thacker, Valerie Lozier and Tammy and James Cook and others for their service.

“We appreciate you and thank you on behalf of the families we serve,” Chapa posted. “Because of your support, we will continue to be #AltoStrong.”

The Pantry’s next regular monthly distribution is 2-5:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 19, at the Chaparral Center, 176 W. San Antonio St., Alto.

Sheltering Arms Coalition’s mobile soup kitchen/diner continues to pass out meals every Sunday in Jacksonville, Rusk and Alto.

“We passed out a total of 53 meals (Sunday, April 26) and had three wonderful individuals thank us for what we were doing and donated $20 each,” Coalition organizer David Peters said. “It’s been tough on me as the whole idea of the bus was to not pass out food and watch people walk away. Yet I know God is in control and we will continue to minister anyway we can.”