Food bank debuts new facility

BRENT ADDLEMAN Managing Editor
Somervell County residents, businesses and elected officials turned out Friday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for "PaPa's Pantry" at the new location of the Somervell County Food Bank. Max Bly, executive director, cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the new facility.

“I don’t have words for it.”

Max Bly, executive director of the Somervell County Food Bank, was at a complete loss for words when trying to describe the public support the organization received over the past three years, culminating with the open house of the facility's new building located on Bo Gibbs Drive.

The food bank, which was housed at First United Methodist Church, debuted the new facility at an open house last Friday and Saturday, but the building would not have become a reality without the people of Somervell County, according to Bly.

“(The old building) is a blessing that we had for so long and they didn’t charge us,” Bly said. “The new building is going to simplify so much for our volunteers and our clients. It is totally different for everybody. We had a number of people come through there wanting to volunteer.”

Hundreds of people turned out to tour the new facility, battling the weather, and Bly was awestruck for the ribbon-cutting ceremony held Friday morning, as members of the community turned out in full force to support the organization’s newest jewel in battling hunger.

“With the rain, it was unbelievable,” Bly said. “Look at the ribbon cutting – there were 50 to 75 people at a ribbon cutting. This whole community came out to support us. We had the dream, we had the vision, but the community made it happen.”

A little over three years in the making, the new food bank will provide consumers the opportunity to select the foods they want and package them to take home in a spacious building that features plenty of room for not only housing food, but maneuverability for clients and volunteers alike.

What began as an idea could not have become a reality without many gracious donations the organization received along the way.

“I took over a little over three years ago,” Bly said. “We started the building fund, and it has been a three-year project. Everybody was asking when we were going to build. I said we couldn’t build until we have a piece of property. That is when Mike Williams stepped up and donated the land.”

That donation was the windfall the food bank needed to embark on acquiring the funds, structure and all the elements of the new facility to start the project. Various donations came to the organization, not only in the form of monetary donations, but also service of construction down to the donations of food to fill the new facility.

“I don’t know if you can put it in perspective,” Bly said of the donations of services, funds and food coming from the community. “I would go home at night and say to my wife, Debbie, what happened today was just a blessing and the next day there is more. There are so many people part of this. I don’t have words for it.”

However, the words of praise that Bly, and other volunteers of the food bank, received during the open house made all the hard work and dedication worthwhile.

“People couldn’t believe how nice it looked, and how much better we will be able to serve people,” Bly said. “They thought it was fantastic. (The clients) liked it – the ones I talked to. It was a small portion. We will know more after our first work.”

The food bank opened at its new location on Tuesday, and Bly said the volunteers were given orientation to the new facility to ensure a smooth transition.

The reality of the new building being open for business is one aspect that hasn’t quite yet hit home for Bly.

“I don’t think there is enough thanks, I’m serious," he said. "When we started the building fund, we knew it had to be totally paid for free and clear. When people donated money, I would ask if people minded if we put it in the building fund. Every single person said we are giving the money to you, do with it what you want. And that is how we got our building fund.

“We had one family that really got us down the road, and another family knocked it out of the park and made it totally paid for. Some gave their labor and materials, others gave one or the other.”

The food bank received $17,242 through the Glen Rose Lions Club’s “Fill the Shelves Drive,” as the club matched the first $5,000 contributed to the organization. The $22,242 was used to purchase cases of much-needed items such as peanut butter, mac & cheese, Hamburger Helper, tuna, soup and canned fruit and vegetables, according to a post on the organization’s Facebook page.

The post continued, “Somervell County Food Bank 'PaPa’s Pantry' owns the new building completely debt-free due to the generosity of the Somervell County residents and companies. This included gifts of land, volunteer labor and construction funds.”

“Recently, I heard a man of God say faith without works is dead. I’ve heard that I don’t know how many times, it has gone over my head not really thinking about it. It hit me when he said that and I realized what it meant. Just going to church sitting there and believing in the Lord and leaving and going through your business of the day.

“Faith is alive and well, and flourishing, in Somervell County,” Bly said.

Brent Addleman is managing editor of the Glen Rose Reporter. He can be reached at 254-897-2282 or email to Follow him on Twitter: @GRR_Editor.