Paul Harper, manager and executive director of the Somervell County Food Bank, led the way past big stand-up freezers and shelves of canned goods. Stacks of cartons filled the rooms in the stone building behind First United Methodist Church.
As people lined up outside last Thursday, Harper hoisted a big bag of carrots out of a refrigerator. He and volunteer Binnie Summers then began toting boxes filled with dry and canned goods, fresh produce and meat and distributing them to needy Somervell County residents.
The lines have been getting longer because of the depressed economy, Harper said. The food bank currently provides for about 200 households a month. Most of those who have applied to receive the free food are out of work.
“The need is still there because there are no new jobs in the area,” Harper said as he toted boxes and a gigantic bag of carrots. “These people just need jobs. Many are here because they are out of work are very low-income.”
The food bank is in need, too. Harper currently is the only volunteer who is driving to the Tarrant County Food Bank each week to pick up and bring back palettes of food to be distributed to Somervell County residents.
The facility needs drivers with three-quarter-ton trucks or more to give their Friday mornings – from 6 a.m. to about 11:30 a.m. — to pick up, bring back and unload the food. The trucks must be able to pull a trailer loaned to the food bank by First United Methodist Church.
“Long-term, if we could get somebody to donate a truck to us that would be awesome,” Harper said. “If we could just have a truck, we could pick up four palettes of food, or about 3,000 pounds.”
The food bank receives support from the United Fund, Microsoft Corp., Luminant and Quicksilver, as well as other companies, churches, civic groups and individuals. National Honor Society students volunteer two Saturdays a month.
Harper, who also works for Microsoft, volunteers about 10 hours a week at the food bank. Microsoft matches each hour he volunteers with a contribution. Microsoft currently is the food bank's single largest contributor, donating almost $10,000 in the past year.
Harper's technology background also has come in handy. When he joined the food bank the recipients were listed on a spreadsheet that included their names, but no addresses. To avoid duplications or someone pretending to be someone else, Harper put all the data on a computer to keep track of everything.
The food bank also can use more volunteers, including people who are fulfilling community service requirements, Harper said.
Anyone who would like to receive food from the facility must fill out an application and provide proof of county residence either through a driver's license, voter registration card or bill.
The food bank distributes boxes on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m.
To donate to or volunteer at the food bank can, contact Harper at 898-0354.