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The Helping Center opens in new facility Jan. 4

The Helping Center Executive Director Sam Pearce adjusts products on the numerous shelves of the nonprofit’s new facility, located at 1016 Broadway in Marble Falls. The new facility, which opens Jan. 4, is designed like a grocery store so clients can choose their own groceries. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

After two years of dreaming and fundraising, The Helping Center of Marble Falls officials and staff will throw open the doors to its new $1 million facility on Monday, Jan. 4.

“This is the premier food pantry of all Central Texas,” said Sam Pearce, the center’s executive director. “Over the last two years, a lot of people came to put this together. We’ve got everything for the next 50 years. Everything is so new and pretty and beautiful. But the real beauty is what we’re going to be able to do with this facility.”

The new 4,000-square foot building is located at 1016 Broadway in Marble Falls on the Community Resource Center campus. It’s only a hundred or so yards from its previous spot at 1315 Broadway, but the new food pantry location is a world apart in what it offers. 

Its 4,000 square feet can hold more than 80,000 pounds of food, quadruple the capacity of the old facility. The main entrance features sliding doors that open to the reception area, business offices, a prayer room, and storage. 

One feature that especially stands out is its grocery store layout. At the previous location, clients waited in a small reception area as staff or volunteers collected food for them from a back storage area.

The new design was intentional, said Pearce and and center board member Paul King.

“We want our clients to feel like they’re going to a grocery store,” King said. “We want them to maintain their dignity. This is the client shopping area where they can pick their own food.”

The new space couldn’t come at a better time in terms of meeting community needs.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, The Helping Center was feeding an average of  500 families a month. That number has steadily grown in 2020. 

“Families have more need,” Pearce said. “We’ve picked up so many new families. We’ve had 100 new families in the last three months.”

Based in Marble Falls, The Helping Center’s reach is far and wide. The food pantry helps families across the Highland Lakes, including 30 in Tow, which is located on the northwest side of Lake Buchanan. 

And because of the size of the loading docks, which can handle both regular pickup trucks and 18-wheelers, The Helping Center has become the new hub for the Central Texas Food Bank. The Austin-based food bank provides food for pantries across Central Texas and the Highland Lakes. 

Artwork on the front of the building depicts fish and loaves of bread, symbolizing Jesus feeding his followers. It was done by Paul King’s wife, Barbara.

“Jesus told the disciples to feed the people,” Paul King said. “Their job wasn’t to worry about how the food was obtained. He asked them to pass out the food. That miracle has allowed us to pass out the fishes and the loaves, too.”

The old pantry location was sold to Mission Marble Falls, which prepares hot meals for distribution to families in need. Mission Marble Falls has been operating out of the Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes. 

“The community has been generous to us,” Pearce said. “We’re trying to pass it on them.”

Money for the new facility came through fundraising, donations, and grants as well as other efforts.

“We’re really appreciative of the community’s support, the Texas Housing Foundation, and the Community Resource Center,” King said. 

The Helping Center of Marble Falls hours of operation are 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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