BURNET — As the elderly woman stopped by LA Care, a Burnet-area food pantry, on Nov. 8 to donate some food, one of the volunteers led her into the reception area. There, several people sat, waiting on a bag or a basket of food to help them through the next several days.
Earlier in the day, the woman had cleared out her pantry and dropped off about 20 pounds of food for the pantry. The volunteer explained to the woman how many people her simple act would help and how big of a difference she would be making in the lives of a family or an individual.
“Jesus said to feed my people,” the volunteer told her. “And that’s really what you’re doing.”
The volunteer later said the woman came to LA Care with just a simple donation but left knowing she had made a difference.[box]TO HELP WHAT: Food drive by KBEY 103.9 FM and The Picayune WHEN: Drop off food from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 20 WHERE: KBEY studio in Burnet, located at Washington and Main streets on the courthouse square BENEFITS: LA Care in Burnet and The Helping Center in Marble Falls[/box]
LA Care office manager Lottie McCorkle nodded as the volunteer retold the story later in the day after the food pantry doors were closed. On that day, LA Care provided food for 42 families, which included many young children.
“God has his hand on us,” McCorkle said. “The incredible thing about (LA Care) is it’s truly community based.”
LA Care (which stands for Lake Area Care) serves a food pantry for the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District’s geographic area. Eleven area churches support the food pantry, 507 W. Buchanan Drive (Texas 29). Along with food, the facility helps residents with emergency vouchers for antibiotic medications, prescription assistance for qualified individuals and even nutritional classes.
All of the services are there thanks to the community, which supports LA Care through food and financial donations as well as volunteer hours.
“The Burnet community is so wonderful,” McCorkle said. “Whenever we’ve needed anything, they’ve responded.”
And LA Care definitely has needs, especially with the holidays approaching. The Thanksgiving and Christmas season often increases demands on food pantries, but facilities such as LA Care are seeing more clients annually, monthly and even daily.
“When I started here about 11 years ago, we thought we had a busy day when we served 12 families in a day,” McCorkle said. “I’d say, in the last 10 years, we’ve quadrupled the number of families we serve.”
In October, LA Care served 445 families, which equates to 1,498 individuals. Of those families, 31 were new ones to LA Care.
“Oh, my gosh, the need is growing,” McCorkle said. She expects the number of people walking through LA Care’s doors to keep increasing, especially with coming cutbacks to the federal food stamp program. “I’m sure we’re getting ready to see the impact of that.”
People can help LA Care in a number of ways, including food and financial donations. Individuals also can volunteer at the facility.
Several local organizations are hosting food drives and other benefits to assist LA Care as well as other food pantries. On Nov. 20, KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune and The Picayune are sponsoring a food drive at the Burnet KBEY studio, located at Washington and Main streets on the courthouse square. People can drop off food from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.
Or, people can simply drop off items at LA Care during operating hours, which are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday and Friday and 2-6 p.m. Monday.
LA Care accepts non-perishable food, meat processed by a licensed processor and money.
“We can’t take home-canned good, but we can accept garden-grown fresh produce,” McCorkle said.
LA Care tries to purchase food through the Capital Area Food Bank, which offers lower costs, but as demand on food pantries across Central Texas has grown, even larger food banks are feeling the squeeze. So when LA Care can’t buy food from the Capital Area Food Bank and food donations dwindle, McCorkle and the volunteers must purchase what they need at full price off grocery store shelves.
When people come into LA Care, it isn’t a matter of volunteers tossing random items into a bag and handing it out. Instead, McCorkle provides each client with a list. The person can go over the list and check off the things he or she or his or her family needs. This serves two purposes. First, it ensures the food LA Care provides is used because if the bag contains items the individual doesn’t eat or already has, it isn’t doing anybody any good.
The other reason is more about just being human.
“We try to help them keep their dignity,” McCorkle said. “We’re not just throwing the food out the door to them. These are people. Yes, they’ve fallen on hard times, but they are still people and deserve care and respect.”
After more than a decade of working at LA Care, McCorkle has seen quite a few people come through the pantry’s doors. Some with whom she’s built friendships.
Witnessing people struggling through rough times can make a person weary. McCorkle and the volunteers bear witness to the strife many in their community face each day. Still, whenever McCorkle opens the door (and sometimes before), the volunteers are there and ready to help.
“The volunteers, they work so hard,” McCorkle said. “They have such big hearts. They’re just amazing.”
The volunteer who escorted the woman around earlier in the day, but requested to remain anonymous, said he sees the good LA Care does in the lives of people.
“This place touches more desperate people with such sustenance than any other mission I know,” he said. “In terms of volunteering, the quality and quantity of good you can do here is amazing.”
He smiled at McCorkle and then added, “Plus, we really do have a lot of fun here.”
Call (512) 756-4422 for more information or how to get involved.