EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — Sam Pearce, the executive director of The Helping Center of Marble Falls Area, sometimes struggles with a problem that’s a good one to have if you work at a food pantry aimed at helping folks.
The center, Pearce said on a day in July, gets filled up with food. Frozen meat takes up about every square inch of space within the line of freezers located in the back portion of the pantry that summer day with more food on the way from the Central Texas Food Bank.
“We’ll use all of it, we will,” Pearce said about the meat as well as the other food on The Helping Center’s shelves. “We definitely need the food, but it’s just we’re at the point we need more room. And we don’t have room here to expand.”
The Helping Center, located at 1315 Broadway in Marble Falls, is currently landlocked with little to no room for expansion on its site. But that’s all changing.
On Aug. 28, The Helping Center and several other Highland Lakes services and service-related organizations got good news as the Texas Housing Foundation and the Community Resource Centers of Texas announced a major expansion to the Marble Falls Community Resource Center, 1016 Broadway.
“Today, we are excited to announce our expansion plans for the Marble Falls Resource Center,” said Donna Klaeger, senior vice president of the Community Resource Centers of Texas. “Our existing Marble Falls Community Resource Center facility houses 12 nonprofit and state-local agencies and is approximately 5,400 square feet under (one) roof. The 7,600-plus-square-foot expansion will increase the ability to expand services to our citizens.
“More than 25 half-day offices will become available to area and state agencies to provide direct services to our community,” Klaeger added.
Part of the expansion includes a 4,333-square-foot space topped off by an 11,500 square feet of loading dock and parking space for The Helping Center. The added space will be much welcomed; however, it’s not just about the space; it’s also how the food pantry can create a better experience for its clients.
Pearce explained the design for the new facility would offer shop-through service so clients can pick what they want, though there will be a system in place to ensure people get what they need as well and don’t overpick certain items. This will make it much more efficient.
H-E-B officials are working with The Helping Center to develop a shop-through facility as well as sharing other efficiency ideas.
But the expansion isn’t just for The Helping Center.
The renovation, which will begin in 2019, includes adding 2,500 square feet for the Highland Lakes Pregnancy Resource Center and 1,210 square feet for the Texas Department of State Health Services. Another 4,800 square feet will include CRC offices, a meeting room, and a kitchen.
The plan is to provide space for a number of nonprofits and community services so the Marble Falls Community Resource Center becomes a “one-stop shop for community services.” But this is only one of a network of CRCs under the Community Resource Centers of Texas and Texas Housing Foundation.
Currently, there are three Community Resource Centers open and operating: Marble Falls, Llano, and Liberty Hill. The Texas Housing Foundation and Community Resource Centers are also opening a fourth CRC in Johnson City in 2019.
The CRC model allows the center and foundation to collaborate with many agencies and nonprofits to bring bring services to the community. And by getting as many as possible in one location, it means people in search of assistance don’t have to travel across town to other offices.
The Texas Housing Foundation under the direction of CEO Mark Mayfield partnered with the Marc and Carolyn Seriff Foundation in 2005 to create the Marble Falls CRC. Mayfield said the center and model have provided a wealth of benefits for the community.
“The concept of co-locating agencies to provide personal assistance to our community members proved to be tremendously successful,” he stated. “Over the past 13 years, we have witnessed our agencies moving from co-locating to strong collaborations. Tens of thousands of services have been provided to our community by agencies located at the Marble Falls Community Resource Center.”
For Pearce and The Helping Center, the added space won’t get here a moment too soon.
The center provides food for people in southern Burnet County, not just Marble Falls. In 2017, The Helping Center served 430 families, or 1,422 individuals, a month. Those numbers aren’t wavering but likely will continue to climb. The center has experienced a 37 percent increase in the clients it has served over the past five years.
By moving to the CRC, The Helping Center can take advantage of the one-stop shop model for its clients. It’s not something lost on Paul King, the president of the food pantry’s board.
“As an ecumenical Christian organization, The Helping Center has been assisting the less fortunate in southern Burnet County for over 30 years. Our sponsoring churches, donors, volunteers, and several partner organizations have made this ministry possible,” King said. “Now, we look forward to a joint effort with the Community Resource Center that will enable us to better serve our clients by improving our ability to see their nutritional needs while providing access to other agencies available at the CRC. The new joint facility will provide space to conduct life skills programs that will assist clients in improving their lives.”
The move would also include The Helping Center community garden, which is tended by the Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association. The garden provides pounds of fresh vegetables, and some fruit, to the center, which distributes it to clients.
The Helping Center is undertaking a capital campaign to fund the expansion. People interested in supporting the expansion and the capital campaign may call Pearce at (830) 385-4315 or (830) 693-5689.