Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mission Reassignment Possibilities

Eagle Pass, San Antonio Food Bank and Haven for Hope

When we first thought about a possible reassignment to the Texas San Antonio Mission we met with Mission President James Slaughter to see what his thoughts were and what might be some possibilities for us. He mentioned an assignment in Eagle Pass, right on the Mexico border as a possibility. He mentioned a new program called “Just Serve” which someone described to us as “Match.com” for volunteers. He also mentioned the San Antonio Food Bank as a possible assignment---either the food bank itself or their soup kitchen called Haven for Hope. We decided to check the possibilities out.

That Sunday we drove 3 hours to the border and attended Eagle Pass Branch 1 which is English speaking. It was an interesting branch and Eagle Pass is an interesting community. The old part of the town is a combination “Small town America” and Mexico with tiendas and tacuerias. The oil boom in that area of Texas has stimulated growth there so there is a new part of town with new stucco houses and developments everywhere. We met the branch president who would have loved to have us serving there.

Eagle Pass is right on the border of Mexico

One of two bridges to Mexico                                     Sign welcoming visitors to Eagle Pass

Then we visited the S.A. Food Bank and we were amazed with the size of the operation and how much the 108 employees there loved their jobs. We met with the CEO who happens to be LDS and trying to get a senior couple there for some time. He was a very impressive guy and before we left we agreed to give it a try. He set us up with food bank t-shirts and had a schedule for the following week- 4 days at the food bank and 1 day at Haven for Hope.

San Antonio Food Bank feeds 58,000 people
a week in 16 south Texas counties
 The S.A. Foodbank depends on thousands of volunteers and only 108 employees to grow, sort, ship and prepare food for hundreds of distribution sites throughout southern Texas.

Thousands of pounds of vegetables are produce in this 27 acre garden
                                          These vegetables will go to school kids & families
        Hundreds of volunteers labor in the hot Texas sun to produce tons of fresh vegetables

The energy conscious food bank uses solar panels on it's warehouse roof for cooling and recycled water along with drip irrigation to grow crops in their 27 acre garden.    

Our first day at the food bank we worked with about 60 other volunteers in the warehouse doing what they call “dry sort” where they had huge pallets loaded with all kinds of miscellaneous food donations from all over San Antonio---about 9 tons worth. Some were in cases like canned fruit, soup, etc. But most was just in cans, bottles and boxes to be sorted for expiration date, nutritional information, bulging cans or damaged bottles. Every food item was re-boxed in banana boxes and put on a pallet according to what it was---snack food, cereal, protein, even pet food. The second day we sorted orders from the hundreds of food sites and organized and filed them for tax purposes since the food bank is a non-profit organization.

Each week the donations are brought into the warehouse where volunteers will sort several tons of food and check for damage, expiration dates, etc. In 3 hours these folks will sort about 18,000 pounds of food that will yield 14,000 meals.

            Sorted food goes to the warehouse and from there to trucks. The
            trucks take the food to distribution sites that serve 58,000 people

Other days we worked in the “kids kitchen” making 4,500 lunches for school kids in summer feeding programs. Each day was a different meal. One day was mac and cheese with fruit cocktail. Another day was roast beef sandwiches made from high end sliced beef that had been damaged in the packaging process. Everything had to be very sanitary and portion controlled. We worked alongside young people who were training to get jobs in the food service industry.

The Kids Cafe prepared over 1,000,000 meals for kids at summer feeding programs all over south Texas


Volunteers assemble 4,000 to 5,000 meals each day which are very healthy. Meals are heat sealed and shipped to kids each day.

                       Prison Trustees learn culinary skills, warehouse management
                       and other skills as well as how to interview & write a resume.

The most enjoyable but most difficult though was working at Haven for Hope; a soup kitchen on the south side of San Antonio. Haven serves 3 meals per day, 365 days a year for 500 or more people who are homeless, in the onsite detox center, in the family housing units, or are just plain hungry.  

Haven for Hope is a huge complex that provides shelter for homeless families, training & rehab for prisoners, treatment for addicts, and meals for 500+ people three times a day. Served by volunteers
You see every kind of person there; families with small children that are just down on their luck; people who are mentally ill; drug or alcohol addicted; cross dressers; ex-convicts in education or job training programs provided at Haven, etc. It was very gratifying to serve those folks, many of whom would say, “God bless you for your service” or “Thank you for your service.” One young father with a wife and two children saw our black nametags and said, “Please pray for our family.”
Another young man asked us to talk with him after we finished and we gave him a Book of Mormon and phone number of the missionaries working in South San Antonio. Everyone should have an experience like volunteering at Haven. It’s good for the soul!

 This homeless lady was fun to talk to. She wore this heavy coat all day every day even though the temperature might have been over 100 degrees in San Antonio.

No comments:

Post a Comment