Food pantry thanks Rotary Club for massive refrigerator

HARLINGEN — Non-refrigerated fresh produce does not last here in the Rio Grande Valley, no matter how good the cause.

Harlingen Neighborhood Food Pantry officials yesterday thanked the Harlingen Sunburst Rotary Club for their donation of a new, 49-cubic-foot stainless steel refrigerator which will be put to immediate use.

Jim Coffman, director of the food pantry, told gathered Rotary members the donation will be a godsend for the operation, and that only just yesterday the old refrigerator was full and they were forced to leave some fresh produce out in the heat where it quickly wilted.

“All this produce that we’re getting now we pick up in the morning, it will be put in here and it all will be distributed tomorrow morning,” Coffman told Rotarians at the pantry at the Church of Christ at 8th Street and Harrison Avenue.

“If that cooler were not here, we would not have been able to say we have fresh produce,” Coffman said as he thanked Rotarians for their generosity.

The flood event here in the Harlingen area Monday night meant a low turnout at the pantry Wednesday, when Coffman estimated those coming for food were about 70 percent of their usual number.

The nonprofit pantry’s all-volunteer staff usually serves between 250 and 400 people each week, providing them with produce, meats, bread, milk, diapers and household goods.

Coffman said he and his wife also were impacted by area flooding.

“Right now our house is under water,” he told the Rotarians. “We had 10 inches of rain through the house. We just thank God it wasn’t 20, and I mean that sincerely.”

The commercial stainless steel refrigerator donated by the Harlingen Rotary club at a cost of $1,754 doubles the size of the food pantry’s refrigerator space.

“Jerry Rounds, one of our members, came forward to our board and asked to help out with a refrigerator,” said Daniel Lopez, Sunburst Rotary president. “Our board had been doing fantastic with fiscal responsibility, we had the money, and we were able to donate it.

“The reason we’re able to do things like this is because of the golf tournament we have, our annual one,” he added. “We raise money for scholarships there, as well as our different fundraisers.”

Coffman also made note of the food pantry’s major sponsors, companies which generously provide foodstuffs for the needy. He thanked H-E-B, Wal-Mart, Henry’s Party Supply and Food Service, Big Lots and the United Way.