Community Care: Law enforcement, first responders assist food drive

A man waits in his car as troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and Brownsville Police Department officers load each car with a box of groceries Friday morning outside the Driscoll Specialty Center. The distribution was part of a joint effort by the Brownsville Police Department, Bebo’s Angels, Driscoll Health Plan, and other advocacy groups to provide groceries for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Law enforcement and first responders passed boxes of veggies and bundles of groceries down a line, loading them into passenger seats and the trunks of vehicles on Friday morning at the entrance to the Driscoll Specialty Center.

A line of cars stretched down Frontage Road, back into the surrounding neighborhood, winding through the medical center’s parking lot nearly an hour in advance, indicating growing food insecurity in the community. Around 50 officers and Driscoll staff, as well as organizers with Bebo’s Angels, worked together to distribute approximately 250 of each bundle to waiting residents until supplies ran out.

Friday’s event was organized by the Brownsville Police Department in collaboration with Bebo’s Angels, Driscoll Health Plan, and other advocacy groups who sourced the products through collected donations. Speaking with reporters, Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda expressed gratitude to be a part of the distribution.

“We are deeply committed and dedicated to our community. We’re going to continue our role as first responders and collaborators for our community,” he said, thanking all who have helped organize aid for Rio Grande Valley residents.

“It’s extremely important that our community continues to see and feel the effect of first responders taking care of them. We’re stepping into our role as we always have.”

BPD officers, Brownsville firefighters, and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers took two hours out of the morning to assist with distribution. South Texas Region Trooper Omar Monrreal said he and other troopers have been involved with distributing food to the homes of residents in need identified by advocates.

Monrreal said troopers have been fortunate in that the public adhered to shelter in place orders, reducing traffic, accidents, and arrests on the road. “People were compliant with the orders given by the county judges,” he said. “As things begin to open up, we’re seeing more traffic.”

Sauceda spoke optimistically about the department’s pandemic response efforts. Faced with a very new crisis, officers had to adjust quickly and with no real playbook. The department’s adherence to CDC guidelines and altered service methods kept first responders safe, as well. “We’re blazing trails as we go. One of the first things we did was to ensure our [PPE] stock. And at the same time, making sure that we, ourselves, didn’t contribute to the infection of our community,” he said.

“We’re committed, we’re not going to stop. This is just us taking care of our community.”