Since the 1970s, Somervell County has had a source of food that people can depend on in times of need.
The Somervell County Food Bank, which was renamed PaPa’s Pantry three years ago when it moved into a new facility on donated land on Bo Gibbs Boulevard, just finished what is always its busiest stretch each year, leading into Thanksgiving.
Debi Bly, director of PaPa’s Pantry, said that at least 150 families were able to pick up turkeys and other traditional Thanksgiving foods free of charge leading into the holiday.
Recently PaPa’s Pantry helped coordinate sending supplies to South Texas in response to the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey. Bly said that 50 5-gallon buckets of personal hygiene products, plus 50 buckets of cleanup supplies were hauled on a trailer to a collection site in the Rockport area.
PaPa’s Pantry follows its primary mission statement — feeding the hungry of Somervell County — with help from approximately 25 regular volunteers.
“We just want to make sure nobody’s going hungry,” Bly said. “We have been serving from 130 to 170 families per month lately.”
Bly said some of those who are helped are families passing through town, but most are permanent residents. They range from people in temporary situations (sudden loss of a job, or stove or refrigerator not working) to senior citizens who live on meager fixed incomes and younger, working families unable to make ends meet, and some who are homeless.
Bly said those who benefit from the food pantry are “extremely grateful” and sometimes say they wouldn’t know what to do if PaPa’s Pantry wasn’t here to help.
“They love the way they are treated,” she said. “All of our clients are treated with respect.”
A volunteer will accompany the food pantry clients as they choose the items they need, following established guidelines that allows for more food for larger families.
Community support for PaPa’s Pantry has been excellent, according to Bly.
“This community has been extremely supportive, with both monetary and food donations. We survive on donations.”
The food pantry idea was founded by Boo Summers, who began distributing food out of her own home in Glen Rose. The food bank later was moved to the parsonage behind the Glen Rose Methodist Church, when it was operated by Louise Berry.
Its longtime name, Somervell County Food Bank, was changed to PaPa’s Pantry when it was moved to its present location in 2014, on land donated by local businessman Mike Williams. It was then dubbed PaPa’s Pantry in honor of the name Williams’ grandfather was known by in their family.
Most of the food is purchased from Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, which is a clearinghouse for donated food that supplies 13 counties in North Texas.
Bly noted that the food available is focused on the most popular items, such as fresh produce including potatoes, along with fruit, canned corn, sweet peas, ranch style beans, canned chili and various types of canned meat.
In addition to the regular adult volunteers, some student groups from local schools also lend a hand from time to time. There are still opportunities for new volunteers, particularly for food stockers on the first Tuesday of each month.
Anyone interested in being a volunteer at PaPa’s Pantry can contact volunteer coordinator Debbie Davis by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Those who would like to make donations of either food or money can contact Bly by calling 972-979-5360. Also, donations can be brought to the facility at 753 Gibbs Blvd., across from the Somervell County Sheriff’s Office.