When people signed up for the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce’s Inaugural Vision XXI leadership class, they committed to creating a class project that would significantly impact the city.

After many months of discussion, committee meetings and research, the class unanimously chose volunteering at the Harker Heights Food Care Center.

Laura Collier and John Ellison researched different options before the idea crystallized.

Vision XXI class representatives also met with the center’s board to provide details of the project.

“I was thrilled that the group would see the center as such a worthy cause,” said Larry Faulkner, chairman of the board and a deacon at First Baptist Church of Harker Heights.

The Harker Heights Food Care Center is in the church at 100 E. Ruby Road, and operated by Executive Director Linda Dawson. Her husband, Michael Dawson, serves as the food service coordinator. The nonprofit is open from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays.

The food care center has had many homes since 2000, when it served about 200 customers. Now, it feeds 1,000 customers a month, including eight to 10 homeless customers.

“For the last three months, it’s been an average of 250 to 300 families,” Michael Dawson said.


The class began the project by splitting into two groups: publicity and fundraising.

Members immediately developed promotional materials then brainstormed how to maintain a money flow to keep the center open.

Donations are coming in, including class member Luke Miller’s gift of a window-unit air conditioner.

Ellison also developed a website for the center — www.hhfoodcenter.org — which launched June 7. The first few weeks, the site received more than 600 hits.

“The site is to raise awareness and provides a way to make donations online through PayPal,” Ellison said.

Class members will raise awareness by inserting promotional material into water bills and hanging posters in shops, restaurants and other businesses.

An information card designed by Vision XXI member Jennifer McCann said it costs about $2 to feed each food care center client. McCann said the process of stocking the center is humbling and astounding.

Most food is bought from the Capitol Area Food Bank in Austin for 15 cents a pound, Michael Dawson said. H-E-B donates bread on the weekends, and after health inspector approval, Bush’s Chicken gives frozen leftover food.

“What the food care center needs is money, pure and simple,” said Vision XXI class member Ryan Shahan, vice president of National Banks of Central Texas in Killeen.

Banks, convenience stores and other businesses in high-traffic areas will sell $1 donation cards for the project, with money raised going directly to the food care center. Sales began July 1 and will continue for two weeks. The class hopes to earn $10,000 from card sales.

Businesses such as Red’s, Chick-fil-A and Ted Smith Law Group committed to undertaking additional food care center fundraisers, said Gina Pence, chamber membership director.

There are checks and balances for people who come to the center asking for food.

Class members hope their adoption of the food care center will establish a footprint for a yearly campaign that will help keep the center open, said Cyd West, class project chairman.

“The class members have grown personally by being involved in the project,” she said. “The community will benefit not only from the efforts accomplished during this July, but for many, many years to come.”

For more information about the food care center, call (254) 768-2061.

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