It was a typical Saturday morning July 26, at the Harker Heights Food Care Center at First Baptist Church of Harker Heights. After 8 a.m., customers arrived, making their monthly journey to get free food for themselves and their families.

The center is open from 8-11:30 a.m. every Saturday.

Throughout July, many of the donations flowed in from “Pack the Pantry,” a first-year campaign sponsored by the Heights Parks and Recreation Department.

City officials spearheaded the idea to collect food and home goods such as baby wipes, baby formula, paper plates, and napkins, said Heights Activities Coordinator Heather Cox.

“The food care center also needs items that food stamps can’t buy, so our focus was on them as well as food,” Cox said.

During the drive, collection boxes were available until July 31 at the Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, the Recreation Center and at the Stewart C. Meyer Library and Activities Center. Cox delivered the donations every Friday in July.

The city has collected more than 165 pounds of food and other items through “Pack the Pantry,” Cox said.

“I was absolutely pleased with the response,” said Cox.

The city will organize another food drive in November, she said. On July 26, cars, pickups and SUVs filled the parking lot, as recipients poured in for 3 1/2 hours.

At one time that morning about 20 people stood and sat in folding chairs, and waited for volunteers inside to fill grocery baskets with a pre-determined amount of food depending on family size. Another volunteer ensured a nutritional balance.

Volunteers typically fill the baskets with items such as bread, meats, canned vegetables, cakes, cereal, crackers, donuts and other food products.

On Saturday, volunteers distributed food to 60 families, or about 250 people, nearly setting a record, said assistant director Clarice King.

Some patrons were regulars at the center. Many came for the first time, and one person drove from Salado.

Some walked about two blocks to the center, and volunteers helped carry their groceries back home.

Recipients also helped one another load their vehicles.

Volunteer Carol Davis loves to help people.

“The center is good for me even if I might not feel like coming to help,” Davis said. “Once I get here, I remember how fortunate I am.”

The Harker Heights Food Care Center is operated by Executive Director Linda Dawson. Her husband, Michael, is food services coordinator.

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