STEPHEN HEMELT — United Way of Orange County leading major food drive event; there are many ways to help

Published 12:28 am Sunday, September 11, 2022

There was an Orange County need for a community food drive in 2020.

That is when United Way of Orange County stepped up with a host of volunteer support.

President and CEO Maureen McAllister said the event was a response to COVID-19 and the needs our community was facing with neighbors, possibly, losing their jobs or having their employment hours reduced.

Although no official statistics were kept, McAllister said the event included a “large response.”

“It was set up in a way that was convenient to the donor,” she said. “We had a drive thru format and two locations to serve, one here in Orange at the Salvation Army and one in Vidor, because we serve all of Orange County. We want to make sure to focus on all of the county. People didn’t have to get out of their cars to make a donation.”

Well, the need as returned, according to local officials.

As of right now, McAllister has noticed a combination of concerns: Local food pantries are not receiving the same quantities of food as in the past, while at the same time volunteers are noticing local clients are struggling to make ends meet.

In response, United Way of Orange County is co-organizing an Orange County Community Food Drive next week.

The event takes place at two locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 16.

Participants are asked to drop off nonperishable food items at The Salvation Army, 1950 MLK Drive in Orange, or United Christian Care of Vidor, 293 Wilson Street in Vidor.

The effort benefits several Orange County food pantries:

  • Bridge City/Orangefield Ministerial Alliance
  • Mission Office, First Baptist Church Orange
  • Orange Christian Services
  • The Salvation Army of Orange
  • United Christian Care Center of Vidor

Volunteers will be on hand at the two drop-off locations on the day of the event, waiting at the car lanes and collecting the food.

Another group of volunteers will come in Sept. 19 after the food drive to get all of the donations sorted so it can be divided among the five food pantries. Each receives a variety of food items to serve local clients.

All of these food pantries are nonprofits, so none of these agencies have large paid staffs. A lot of the work is done through volunteers.

“It is very beneficial to us to have volunteers serve,” McAllister said. “And it is also very rewarding to the people who are volunteering. One of the things we really value in Orange County is that we have a great collaboration among our nonprofit partners. No one is looking to be the end all, be all.

“We are all looking to work together to provide those services to the people of Orange County. With the help of our corporate partners being able to provide some volunteers and send some employees to make donations, it will absolutely be a successful event.”

There are many avenues to contribute.

To someone who wants to be a part of it, you can do so on any level.

If you want to help but don’t have a lot, you can clean out your pantry and put a few things in a bag and come through the drive thru and drop them off.

If you have a little bit more means, you can go to the grocery store and buy a basket full of groceries and donate.

Maybe you can volunteer.

“There are a lot of different ways to support this,” McAllister said. “If you can’t do much of any of those things, if you have social media, share this on your Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter. Help us get the word out.”

For more information, call the United Way of Orange County at 409-883-3591.

Stephen Hemelt is the publisher at Orange Newsmedia, which produces the Orange Leader and orangeleader.com. He can be reached at stephen.hemelt@orangeleader.com.