Columns for The Lufkin News

Feeding the Hungry this Holiday Season

Posted Dec 01, 2015 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Our series of articles titled Business is Everyone’s Business has focused so far on various employers, both large and small, and their economic or employment impact in the region. In this season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we must also remember that our local non-profits are everyone’s business as well.

The Thanksgiving holidays saw a great outpouring of giving through the Community Food Drive, originally started by our own “saint” Rev. Bettie Kennedy and now ably overseen by Bruce Love. On November 21, 2015, two thousand boxes of food were quickly packed and distributed throughout the community. Hundreds of volunteers, young and old, black and white, rich and poor came together for a common purpose and in one accord. That singular, annual event has great impact. Do you ever wonder how that need is met throughout the year?

The Christian Information & Service Center is an amazing organization that provides food for our hungry day in and day out. CISC, a 501 (c)(3) organization led by the indomitable Yulonda Richard, has a mission to be a Christian witness and minister to those in need specifically by feeding the hungry within Angelina County. It is a volunteer-supported organization that exists because of donations given in love by individuals and local churches. These donations allow CISC to operate locally in Lufkin to provide food out of the East Texas Food Bank in Tyler.

The need is significant. One in seven Americans will visit a food bank this year. 465,000 East Texans are at risk of hunger. Every year, CISC hands out over 2M pounds of food to around 200,000 people on a budget of $347,000. Though the primary assistance to the community is free food for low-income residents within Angelina County, CISC also offers various programs throughout the year, such as the "BackPack Buddies" after-school feeding program, the "Senior Food Box" senior citizen program which feeds over 2,600 seniors per year, and the "21-Day Meal Program," which aims at feeding children who are on summer vacation. There is also an avenue for assistance with gas vouchers, sleeping bags, bus tickets or utility assistance.

According to Yulonda Richard, the recent layoffs in Angelina County have led to an increase in the number of clients seeking help at CISC. Previous statistics showed that forty-nine percent of the households served have at least one employed adult, and the rest are mostly children and seniors on fixed incomes. It is, to a large extent, the working poor who really need a helping hand.

If you have ever driven by CISC in the morning, you know there are people there at 6:30 AM waiting, even though the doors don’t open until 9:30 AM. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, bread, everything you find in the grocery store CISC delivers. The majority of the donations come from right here in Angelina County: money, food, church support.

How can you help? Come to the Believe in Christmas! musical this Sunday, December 6, 2015 at 6 PM at Lufkin’s First Baptist Church. First Baptist and New Beginnings Baptist are uniting for the second year to celebrate unity, worship together, and support CISC. Admission is free, but bring canned goods or even a monetary donation for CISC when you come. As Yulonda Richard says, “It doesn’t matter what we give, God always expands it. As long as you are giving from the heart, God will increase it.”

CISC may not be the most glamorous non-profit in town, but they just might be the most impactful. As we move through this holiday season, remember that supporting local non-profits like CISC is everyone’s business.

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Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

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