More than a hundred volunteers from the New Braunfels Food Bank and Caterpillar staff members braved the heat Thursday to distribute about 152,000 pounds of food to 760 area residents.
The event kicked off Thursday morning in a Caterpillar parking lot with a sea of taillights as residents waited in their vehicles to receive about 200 pounds of food.
“It’s actually a mix of products, and based on the number of what we have of that item, they’ll get a portion of each of that pallet,” New Braunfels Food Bank Executive Director Monica Borrego said. “So they’ll get a mix of everything from peanut butter to catfish to fresh produce.”
Jessica Whites greeted volunteers with a smile as they placed the food inside her vehicle.
“I think this is great and very helpful for everybody in the area,” Whites said. “The fact that they can do this during a really hard time for everybody is great, and we’re just really thankful for it.”
The distribution event came at the perfect time as Whites’ family is currently battling financial issues, she said.
“We’ve recently had some tough times financially, and we just needed a little bit of extra help,” she said. “We’ve got a large family, and my father-in-law lives with us as well. My husband is the only one working, so it’s been tight.”
Stanley Patton said he was awestruck by the distribution’s speedy operation when he turned the corner into Caterpillar’s parking lot.
“I think it’s great taking care of the elderly, and I’m just amazed that this is happening,” he said. “It’s a very efficient procedure they have going here.”
Members of the National Guard helped direct the flow of traffic into several lanes. While navigating the lanes, the vehicles stopped at four checkpoints where volunteers quickly filled their trunks and backseats with food items.
Industrial Power Systems Division Large Engines General Manager Mark Stratton said Caterpillar partnered with the New Braunfels Food Bank to bring the nonprofit organization’s services a little closer to home.
“In these kinds of times, there’s a lot more need than what there normally is, and not everybody can get to the food bank,” he said. “They’re being real proactive and trying to get out into the local communities and provide the support they can to the families in need where they live. We happen to have Miss Leigh Henderson, who’s our Human Resources manager, on the board of directors for the food bank, so things came together. They needed a place where they could set up, and we’ve got a great big parking lot.”
As the distribution went on, semi-tractor-trailers stacked with food items continuously flowed to and from the event site delivering truckloads of additional boxes that were quickly passed out.
“It’s enough food for the average family to go for two weeks,” Stratton said. “So you’re looking at six to eight big boxes of food that each family’s getting as they go through the line and then move out.”
Among the cast of volunteers were several Guadalupe Regional Medical Center staff members who worked their own lane to distribute goods.
“We’re very appreciative of Caterpillar for putting this on for our community, and we as a hospital were glad that we can help support that,” Guadalupe Regional Medical Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elaine Bennett said. “The volunteer spirit is amazing. We all know that this is a pandemic, and we’re gonna get through this, but we’re all pulling together, and it’s nice to see that there’s people that are very appreciative and there’s volunteers that will go the extra mile to make sure that these families are fed.”
Those looking to receive food were encouraged to fill out an online application form before distribution day to receive their goods; however, not every event-goer was able to do so.
Beatriz Morales said she learned of the distribution last minute and could not register in time, but was happy when she learned that the National Guard and volunteers were helping folks register while in line.
“My neighbor told me about it, and she said we have to preregister,” Morales said. “I said ‘oh no, it must be too late,’ but she said ‘no go find out.’ So I came, and praise God, I was lucky because all the people that hadn’t registered are getting help here anyway to register.”
The new coronavirus has brought more than just sickness to the country, and the folks at Caterpillar are happy to provide the community with some form of aid, Stratton said.
“There’s a lot of attention these days around the pandemic and around the people that are sick, and clearly, that is a tragedy, but the impact on communities goes so far beyond that,” he said. “There’s so many more people in need with them not being able to work and not being able to get out and not being able to socialize and get the support they need. So one of the positives that comes out of that is the opportunities for communities like Seguin to pull together and help each other.”