North Texas Food Bank prepares Thanksgiving Dinner

The+North+Texas+Food+Bank+providing+food+for+the+needy+for+30+years.+Photo+by+Lauren+Ussery+

The North Texas Food Bank providing food for the needy for 30 years. Photo by Lauren Ussery

Coppell’s own St. Ann Catholic Parish is home to an avid volunteer group present at the The North Texas Food Bank, which has provided food for the needy for the last 30 years. Every second Saturday a group of parishioners, led by the coordinator Jim Halepaska, venture to Dallas to help. Photo by Lauren Ussery.

By Corrina Taylor
Staff Writer

Boxes upon boxes of food crowded the 100,000 square foot facility; workers wearing bright orange vests drove lifts to store the food that would soon be in the hands of those who need it the most. This vast facility has several sections of storage including a 25,000 square foot cooling space cold enough for volunteers to see their own breath.

The North Texas Food Bank is a nonprofit organization that has been providing food for the needy for 30 years; they offer many volunteer opportunities for the public. Coppell’s own St. Ann Catholic Parish is home to an avid volunteer group present at the food bank. Every second Saturday a group of parishioners, led by the coordinator Jim Halepaska, venture to Dallas to help.

Halepaska has been a frequent visitor at the food bank; he has been volunteering for 13 years and is currently in charge of organizing the trips to the food bank. He is actively involved in the church and is a big supporter of volunteering.

Food is donated from all around the area to the North Texas Food Bank during this season. Photo by Lauren Ussery

“In the gospel Matthew, Chapter 25 talks about the separating of the sheep and the goats and the sheep ask why did you choose me [God answers] when you fed the least of mine and gave them clothing that’s when you fed me,” Halepaska said. “We all have that obligation to give back to the community,”

There are many jobs for the volunteers to complete while at the food bank; there is sorting donations and unsalable items, an assembly line which puts all the food into boxes for distribution, and other various jobs.

“We work as a distribution center,” volunteer coordinator Erica Pletan said. “The people we feed are called people ‘suffering from hunger insecurity’ go to our member industries (the food pantries, shelters, schools and churches). We work with 340 organizations across North Texas and spread into 13 different counties.”

Since so many people choose to volunteer, there is a sign up for shifts posted on their website. The hours they are open to volunteer are Monday through Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Fridays they only have one shift 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

There are other ways to volunteer inside the North Texas Food Bank. Volunteer coordinator Natalie Butters has recently organized a new program that targets teenagers. Youth Against Hunger intentions are to teach the youth of the issue of hunger in North Texas and involve them in helping it.

The organization’s goal is to raise awareness in communities, provide leadership and service opportunities to students as well as promoting philanthropy. Youth Against Hunger is open to all and anyone who wishes to become more involved, the first step is getting connected through its Facebook page.

Currently Coppell High School does not have a Youth Against Hunger club. If students wish to start up a club they only need eight youth members to participate in the advisory board, their goal would be to arrange group meetings, vote on key decisions, and create a calendar of events.

There are numerous other volunteer organizations that St. Ann and the North Texas Food Bank participate in, a full list of the opportunities can be found on the North Texas Food Bank’s website. People can volunteer at various member industries under the food bank and distribute food to those suffering from hunger.

During the holidays many families are not fortunate enough to experience the traditional Thanksgiving meal. This is why St. Ann has come together to help out. Every year the church organizes a Thanksgiving drive that collects canned goods and other imperishable items.

The drive has already started and continues until Nov. 17 when the cans and food will be assembled in boxes, throughout the years the process has been perfected and it now only takes an hour for roughly 250 volunteers to assemble 810 baskets.

 

“We take everybody who wants to help; it’s a community effort,” St. Ann volunteer coordinator Eddie Provencio said. “It takes a lot to assemble the baskets, for people to drive and deliver them we have huge truck but we need drivers for one on one deliveries.”

The next day, milk and a frozen turkey will be placed in the boxes and they will be delivered to impoverished families in the area. Last year the church delivered 810 baskets to needy baskets, this year the goal is to deliver 900 but when Provencio looked at the list of families he believes it will be closer to a thousand.Provencio has been in charge of the drive since 1997 after the St. Ann Men’s Club started it the year before. During the first year they delivered baskets to 90 families, since then more parishioners have gotten involved and the number has gone up.

It is an eye opening experience for those who choose to deliver the boxes to the houses. Not only will they get to see the families they are delivering the baskets, too. They also get to witness the manner in which the families are living and see for themselves the true side of poverty.

“I have seen the conditions before but even if something is terrible it will balance it out,” junior Katie Fink said. “I have heard about friends on mission trips. I have heard the impact it has and the joy it brings just providing something as simple as a water bottle, so a whole thanksgiving dinner just sounds amazing.”

There are a lot of people in North Texas suffering from hunger and look to the churches and the kind hearted people to help them out. This Thanksgiving can be more than just a meal; it can be a chance to make an impact, to help those suffering from hunger insecurities.