March 27, 2015 - The Joaquin Community Pantry distributed food boxes for the first time on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 with the support of the East Texas Food Bank Mobile Pantry and volunteers. They distributed 59 total boxes. The mobile food pantry will come to Joaquin on the 3rd Wednesday of the month which will be on the 15th for the month of April and starts at 10:30am until 12:30pm at First Baptist Church of Haslam.
Lauren Hovey, a senior at L.S.U.S. studying Psychology and the agency director for the Joaquin Community Pantry, spoke about the pantry and how it got started. Hovey was aware of various churches and groups who were already collecting food and clothes to help people in the community.
She visited with the East Texas Food Bank about programs available to help organize the food collections and became interested in 'Unified Hunger,' a program offered by East Texas Food Bank which spreads awareness for hunger in our community. Once she realized none of the Joaquin food programs were registered at the East Texas Food Bank, she visited with Bro. Jody Hooper, pastor at First Baptist Church of Haslam, about hosting a mobile food pantry program at the church.
After getting paperwork going, the first community meeting was held and it had a great turnout of 20 or so people which according to the agent with the East Texas Food Pantry was 4 times as many people which normally attend initial meetings. Hovey said, "We have had a lot of community outreach which has been amazing to have."
How the mobile pantry works is for two and a half years East Texas Food Bank Mobile Pantry brings all of the food. The Joaquin Community Pantry has to have $100 per month to purchase the food and the money goes into a scholarship account for the Joaquin pantry. After the two and a half years are over, the money is given back for the Joaquin pantry as start up for them to be able to purchase the food from then on. At this time, the pantry doesn't need food donations until the two and a half years is over; however, they are seeking money donations which will go to the cost of buying food from the East Texas Food Bank now and in the future. Volunteers are always nice to have as well especially during the summer months when people are on vacation.
Hovey wanted to express appreciation to everyone who helped make the food pantry possible, "Big thanks to Mrs. Gail of Joaquin Christian Services for all of her influence and knowledge. She has done so much. Also, Mr. Baker for helping us spread awareness. So many people have helped make it amazing. We ended up serving 59 boxes which is amazing for a first day!" She also said the food pantry's success so far can be attributed to all of the Joaquin community. Volunteers who have helped aren't just from First Baptist Church of Haslam but are from many different churches, students from the school, council members, and the community.
"For me the most important thing is awareness. If anyone knows people that are in need in the community, let them know that we do have it here because I know there are a lot of people that are in need and I want to make sure that we are reaching out to everyone."
Lauren Hovey told a little about what got her wanting to help with the food pantry, "I have been extremely blessed. My parents are very giving people. Growing up I had good examples; they have always been in the community doing things." Lauren continued saying, "I believe that Christ died for my sins and he has blessed me so much and I don't deserve it. My mom is a teacher at [Joaquin] school, I [substitute teach] and I have seen how a lot of kids struggle and that breaks my heart. I know there are a lot of families in need. I'm excited and nervous; I kind of feel young but, I know that it's gonna prosper because God has it under control and we have so many great people in our community who have given and done so much. I can't wait to see the future of the pantry."
Requirements to qualify for food boxes: Texas residence (Information can be given to Louisiana residents for a food pantry in Logansport), a household make less than 185% of the poverty level ($21,257 or less for a household of 1; $28,694 or less for a household of 2; $36,131 or less for a household of 3; $43,568 or less for a household of 4; etc.)
Hovey can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The East Texas Food Bank Mobile Pantry agent for Joaquin is Michelle Rodriguez who can be contacted at 903-617-2017 or emailed at email@example.com. Donations can be mailed to First Baptist Church of Haslam, 154 County Road 3590, Joaquin, TX 75954. Church phone number is (936) 269-3587.
All the volunteers who helped to make it happen!