Sunday, February 05, 2023
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Winter Texans love to volunteer

20221019 First Issue 1987Thirty-five years ago, our first issue highlighted how much Winter Texans love to help while visiting the Rio Grande Valley. In this article I will give a throwback of the many places Winter Texans volunteered and give a snapshot of where Winter Texans volunteer today. Please join us in celebrating you and our paper’s history.

Winter Texans throughout the Valley were busy behind the scenes working with the Rio Grande Valley Food Pantry network to provide a basic box of food and other items for people in an emergency or chronic need for such help.

20221019 El Dorado Acres Christmas Stockings KO 0002 webAt the time, the food pantry operated a warehouse in McAllen where goods were salvaged by volunteers. These items were then distributed to church and city pantries in neighboring areas where more Winter Texans help the other volunteers.

The Rev. Ted Knies and his wife, Martha, were in charge of the operation aimed at “serving families who fall between the cracks of state and federal assistance programs and people who have had an emergency situation.”

One skilled volunteer featured in our first issue was Bob Lorensen of Pharr South, formerly of Minneapolis. He was helping with a program called “Project Bean Pot.” This is where $25 bought a 100-pound bag of beans to provide 20 families with five pounds of beans. This equaled to 50 servings for a family of five for 10 days.

“Beans is the most basic food product needed to keep a family from growing hungry in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Bob in 1987.

20221019 Bentsen Palm RV Park Cinderella Rescue Donation DAB 4468 webAt the time, there were 20 Winter Texans working about three hours daily on Mondays and Thursday at the warehouse.

The pantry received resources such as bread from HEB stores – sometimes more than 10,000 loaves a week. They also received staple goods such as canned goods, flour, rice, cereals, detergent, pampers, and paper products.

Winter Texans would help sort out the salvageable goods by carefully checking them over to make sure they were in useable condition. They were cleaned and re-boxed for distribution by truck to the satellites. These satellites also received food and other goods from other sources.

20221019 Brookridge RGV Quilt Guild CAB 0565 webThe RGV Food Pantry, developed in 1983, later became what we now know as the RGV Food Bank. The Food Bank has since provided more than 48 million meals to clients and has partnered with 275 non-profit agencies throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Every hour that someone volunteers the food bank is able to provide an additional 105 meals for the community. Over 75,000 individuals, including children, seniors, and veterans, are served each week. This equates to over five million pounds of food being distributed directly to clients through their on-site and mobile pop-ups.

The Food Bank only has a two percent overhead, with 98% of their expenditures directed towards program services.

The Food Bank is not the only place Winter Texans volunteer, but it surely is a rewarding experience for all involved.

20221019_Orange-Grove_Toy-Drive_Courtesy_0002_web.jpgWinter Texans volunteer for numerous organizations, schools, and cities. You also spearhead your own fundraisers and toy, school supply, and other types of drives to help those in your community.

Many people have been blessed by your outpouring of love, kindness and sharing. You truly immerse yourself fin the needs of those around you and find ways to help those that need to be uplifted.

In 1987, we also featured volunteers at local libraries, Amigos in Education, local churches, and other local pantries.

In recent years we have been able to highlight your support of organizations such as battered women’s shelters, children’s homes, the Linus Project, humane societies, Rainbow Room, veterans’ homes, and so many more. Nearly every park has a favorite charity or organization they choose to support each year, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some parks rotate through a couple of their local charities throughout the year.

I went to one park recently where volunteers read to students at a nearby elementary school. They would also help them with schoolwork and donated things such as socks and jackets during the season.

20221019 Paradise Park Linus Project HMiller 0003 webThere are still others that use their talents to make Christmas stockings for kids, blankets for children, and even quilt for Veterans. During the pandemic, many Winter Texans took up the task of making masks for their community and local hospitals and clinics.

I am in awe of all the work and time you put into our communities while visiting. Most of you have been able to get close and personal with your communities and in tune with their needs. It’s amazing all the work you do while in the Valley. I have also seen how some of you prepare back home, bringing donations back with you each year.

We always look forward to sharing what you do for our communities. We look forward to seeing your events where you present donated goods, pass out quilts that have taken so many hours to make, or where you hand out stocking to the local children. It’s always exciting to see the smiling faces of those that are so appreciative of your love and kindness.

20221019 RGV Food Bank Red Hats Tour KO 0003 webWe wouldn’t be what we are today without you. You are what makes this paper. We need more of that in our community. We love sharing all of the good news you supply.

Please help us do that by sending your items to We would love to share what is going on in your park or community.

If your park, or a person in your park, has a special birthday, or anniversary, we would love to know. While we are remembering how long we have been a part of your community; we also want to be able to share how long you have been a part of our community.

Throughout this season we will be celebrating with these throwbacks, highlighting what we did during our first year, and where we are today. We hope you enjoy going down memory lane with us.

Footnote: The article referenced was originally written by John M. Young