The cupboards are bare at Harker Heights Food Care Center, which doesn’t bode well for the approximately 250 families who rely on the food bank to fill their own pantries every month.
That’s an average of 900-1,000 individuals, including 30 home-bound senior citizens, according to Director Linda Dawson.
“We’re seeing a lot of bigger families now, because they’re combining households,” she said. “We used to see three or four in a household, and now typically we’re getting eight, 10 and 12 because kids are moving back in with their parents and grandparents.”
With the holidays looming on the horizon, Dawson knows the center’s clientele — and needs —will continue to grow. She wants people in the community to search their hearts, pantries and wallets for any help they are willing to give.
“I want to get more people aware of the need,” she said. “People think of Harker Heights as a rich community … but you drive around and look at all these mobile homes. People are paying $450 a month rent for a cracker box, tin shed, fire hazard.”
The center gets most of their food supplies from Capital Area Food Bank in Austin. Dawson pays a “shared maintenance cost” of 15 cents per pound for fresh vegetables and meats, pasta and canned goods, but even Capital Area is hurting.
“Their donations are way down too,” Dawson said. “They have over 300 partner agencies (other food banks) that they supply. They’re all struggling, and because Capital Area is down, that’s hurting all of us They have no canned vegetables, no canned beans, no peanut butter.”
Dawson said all types of donations are needed, from canned vegetables and meats to monetary pledges and volunteers. A $1 donation will buy a pack of spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, a bag of beans, a pound of hamburger and a bag of rice, courtesy of Capital Area. If the food care center does not have supplies on hand, Dawson uses cash donations to purchase food from local grocery stores.
She never turns away a person in need and sometimes goes out of her way to get food to a family. Case in point — a recent Saturday when she encountered a young mother with two children in a wagon sitting on the side of the road. The woman was crying.
“I stopped and asked about her, and she said she had walked all the way from Indian Trail to the food care center and it was closed,” Dawson said. “So I loaded the wagon in the back of my van and took her and the kids and got them some food. Then I took them home.”
The Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce recently learned about the food shortage and decided to adopt the center for Make A Difference Day, an annual community service event that takes place nationwide the last Sunday in October. But the chamber took it a step further by turning one day of service into an extended food drive that started last week and continues through October.
“Some local business members have emailed saying they want to collect food, as well, and Walmart is going to do a food drive one weekend in October,” said Gina Pence, Chamber membership director. “There’re a lot of other things that we want to help with too, like their need for a refrigeration system.”
Dates for the Walmart food drive have not been determined, Pence said.
Unfortunately, the center’s needs do not end at food, money and volunteers. A new building is desperately needed to house the nonprofit organization, which currently makes its home in the First Baptist Church of Harker Heights. Dawson plans to kick off a fundraising drive for the building at the next Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting on Oct. 9.
“The Chamber is going to request that everybody bring two canned goods to the meeting,” Dawson said.
To make donations to the food care center, call Dawson at (254) 768-2061 or drop off donations at the Chamber of Commerce, 552 E. 2410, Suite B, Harker Heights.