Alice's Food Pantry: How to help those in need during pandemic

Robin Bradshaw
Alice Echo News Journal
Hector Chapa has been serving the community as an Alice Volunteer for the food pantry for over 25 years and Bonnie Whitley helped take over operations after her father Bud Smith passed away as one of the founding members of the non-profit organization.

The Alice Volunteer Services has been on the front lines during this years' pandemic providing food to Jim Wells County families at Alice's Food Pantry.

Bonnie Whitley has been providing her service for the program for decades and has never seen the despair in numbers as she has this year.

"We used to be open Monday through Friday but now we are only on Wednesdays and helping more families on the one day," Whitley said. 

Pre-coronavirus, the food pantry would help approximately 80 families a week when they were open five days a week. After March, the food bank provides food to  more than 80 families by 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays

For instance, on Wednesday, Dec. 9 the food pantry provided 96 families with food for the month. 

Residents wait in line during Wednesday's food drive at the Alice Food Pantry.

Alice Volunteer Services started in 1983 by Bonnie Whitley's father Bud Smith and a group of local churches wanting to help the community during the 1980's oil industry bust. Fast forward to the year 2020 Whitley has seen the local economy ride the oil industry tides- but not like this year. 

"This year was like a double whammy, the economy was not doing well before the pandemic and it's an added layer affecting the community," Whitley said. "We see the despair in these families' faces and numbers seem to grow." 

"The Alice Food pantry's mission has changed since 1983. Food pantries in the Coastal Bend are no longer 'emergency' aid only. With the economic downturn and (COVID-19) everyone has been hit hard but especially those with low incomes," Whitley added. "Unemployment is now prevalent and many in the community have lost their homes and have combined families into one household to make ends meet. The situation in Jim Wells County, the Coastal Bend, our nation and the world is critical."

Volunteers at the Food Bank in Alice feeding families in need during COVID-19.

The food pantry is in need of donations this year. Monetary donations provide the most help due to the pantry's partnership with the Coastal Food Bank where most food items are bought 15 cents to the dollar. 

"We will take food donation items at the food pantry building but cash really can go much further to help local families in need," Whitley said. 

HOW TO HELP

If you are interested in helping Alice Volunteers Services this holiday season please contact: 

Alice Volunteer Services

Street address: 311 E. Main St. Alice, TX 78332

Mailing address: P.O. Box 1966, Alice, TX 78333

Phone: (361) 664-1015