KILGORE — Helping Hands Food Pantry at 201 S. Martin St. in Kilgore relies on help from others in its mission to feed the community — and this has been especially true in 2020.
As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put a strain on under-served residents trying to keep healthy food in their pantries, Kilgoreites and East Texans stepped up to help the food pantry.
“Our community in Kilgore has continued to support the ministry of Helping Hands, with monetary donations and canned food drives of non-perishable items to help the families in need during these difficult times during the holidays,” said Helping Hands Executive Director Ursula Plaisance “The month of November, (Helping Hands) served 106 new families, serving around 350 during the month. This month we have seen many new families also.
“2020 has been a challenge for Helping Hands, due to COVID, keeping our clients and volunteers safe while distributing food through our front door. At times there is a shortage of items that we have packed in our boxes, that we are not able to get. So we change gears and find substitutions to accommodate our families.”
A major boon this year came when Kilgore Primary School students and staff pitched in to help keep the pantry stocked.
“The students collected 1,296 pounds of food, totaling 1,500 items,” Plaisance said.
Local Scouts also offered help.
Pack No. 251-414 and Pack No. 252-464 together collected 1,960 pounds of food from the community. The Scouts distribute flyers to the community and then returned on designated days to pick up the donated food.
RC Comics’ Geektopia, a store focused on pop culture and comics, held a food drive, donating collected items to Helping Hands, while a local restaurateur stepped up when the pantry experienced an unexpected setback.
“Our walk-in cooler and freezer was no longer working,” Plaisance said. “We consulted with Southwest Solutions and they contacted Paul Bambry, owner of The Jalapeno Tree restaurant, and Mr. Bambry blessed Helping Hands greatly by donating” a refrigeration system.
“Continued donations are appreciated greatly, especially during these difficult times of illnesses, and job losses,” she said.