Copperas Cove resident Linda Litton is grateful for the help she receives from places like Refuge Mobile Food Pantry, a community outreach program at the Christian House of Prayer that gives away tons of food each month to needy area residents.

“It’s wonderful,” Litton said, as she waited in a drive-through line with dozens of others last Saturday morning in the Camp Triumph parking lot next to C.H.O.P. along Highway 190 in Cove.

“This is my second time to be here. This place is a blessing to everyone — it really is, she said. “This is hard times. I’m 72 years old, and I’ve got (two) grandchildren living with me. You better believe it helps. I love it.”

A small army of volunteers was directing traffic, sorting meat, eggs, produce and dry goods and loading it all into cars and trucks that began lining up more than a half-hour early for the monthly good giveaway. The local food pantry gets its supplies from a network of sources that includes United Way and the Central Texas Food Bank, along with various donations and sponsors.

“We serve the Cove, Lampasas and Killeen area,” said Joseph Solomon, pantry executive director and an elder at C.H.O.P. “We rotate every month, (and) because of the pandemic, we’ve been back and forth between Cove and Killeen because we need a large parking lot to accommodate the cars. This was a walk-up (service) prior to the pandemic. Now, we have the drive-through.”

The program that began four years ago hands out an average 20,000 to 25,000 pounds of food each month, Solomon said. Participation ranges from 300 to 500 families per month, although in February, the program served 1,999 individuals in 547 families.

“People come from all walks of life,” Solomon said. “Since the pandemic, we’ve seen such an increase in need — and it’s not over yet.

“We started off with a pickup truck, knocking on doors in low-income neighborhoods in Cove. Four years later, we have 60 volunteers and we are looking at ways to build a (permanent) pantry.”

One of those volunteers was Vonnetta Wring, who said helping hand out food is her way of giving back and showing gratitude for her own good fortune.

“God has blessed me and provided for me, so I want to (acknowledge) that by blessing his people,” Wring said. “I’ve been doing this for a little over a year. It blesses me and makes me feel like I’m doing my part in affecting lives, and touching God’s people through Him.”

One of those Wring helped to serve was Devita Carrillo of Kempner, who said: “I love this program. It helps me out a lot, especially right now that I’m helping take care of my elderly parents.”

Solomon, meanwhile, said he is grateful to be part of an organization that helps support the community with outreach programs that also include a women’s shelter, men’s shelter, and drug addiction support program.

“The credit all goes to God,” he said. “It’s not anything we’re doing. This is what I always say … we are one link in a chain of support in this community. We’re just a link in the chain, and we’re glad to be the little, small link. There are so many other agencies, entities, churches, businesses that are also links.”

For information on upcoming food giveaways, go to the food pantry’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/refugemobile

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