In 1982 the Laredo Chapter of Bread for the World organized a hunger luncheon in observance of World Food Day at the Presbyterian Church located on Lane Street. John Hazelton was the pastor at the time. Marty Floyd and Alberto Luera, Director of Centro Aztlan, and twenty-two more individuals from the community attended with others representing various human service agencies and churches in Laredo. Those gathered at the luncheon discussed the situation with respect to hunger in Laredo and surrounding areas.
The presenters at the event were Larry Schnur, Rev. Jim Tomlinson from First United Methodist Church, and Mr. Raul Guerra from the Salvation Army. I think that Ruth Hazelton (John’s wife), Charles or Delia Whitfield of First UMC, Sr. Miriam Medellin, Kathleen O’Connell might have been there, too. According to a letter to the editor I sent after the event, there were two television crews and three individuals from the Church of Gospel Ministries. There are probably more if any of those people are still around.
“I know the event was simple a hunger awareness luncheon that served a rice hot dish, bread and water. It was a humble event and did not attract many people. From the dozen or so people who attended came the idea that more needed to be done, and a food bank seemed to be the way to do it. I would have to give Alberto Luera and Rev. John Hazelton the most credit for getting things going. I just provided some legwork to get things off the ground. Over a series of follow-up meetings, the plan to organize a food bank sprang into action. In 1983, the Laredo Regional Food Bank became a reality.
“Our first donation was hundreds of pounds of frozen zucchini donated by a food importer from Mexico. That was a hard product to move, and it stayed in frozen storage for months until we could effectively distribute it. What really got us moving was the $30,000 grant we got from the national offices of the Presbyterian Church, which came to John because of his ministry. Before that, he and I were digging in our pockets each month to pay the few bills we had. After that grant we rented a warehouse, hired a director, and began taking in truckloads of donated food from H-E-B stores, as well as other sources. Then, we had more volunteers, including the McKenzie family of First UMC who came to help sort the food. The first warehouse space was rented in North Laredo and served as the initial base of operations for the food bank. Next, under the guidance of board member Alberto Luera, the Food Bank seized on an opportunity to acquire its current location on Anna Avenue. Ever since then, agencies have drawn food for men, women, and children to help those persons in Laredo that struggle daily to meet the basic needs of life—food and shelter.
“So once again—30 years later, we stop the daily work to thank you—our supporters—we thank you for your checks–the individual donor and supporter, the corporation and companies that provide leads and actual donations of food, the government funders (city and county), to the students of Laredo that conduct food drives, to postal workers that collect food for us every year in May, and to the social and community groups that donate money on an annual basis as well as the city and federal entities that provide a steady stream of volunteers to help us prepare the emergency food boxes made available to the pantries—and those of you that are here for the first time but will become supporters of the food bank.”
Almost forty years later, the Laredo Regional Food Bank continues to serve families and member charities in the area. The following agencies, along with 70 more, are part of our Member Charities program. The Food Bank provides food for these agencies on a weekly basis for distribution in their service areas and through their programs.
AAMA Concilio Hispano
American Legion Post 59
Border Region Behavioral Health Center
Communities in Schools
Habitat for Humanity Laredo
Minesterios Internacionales Plenitud De Vida
Laredo Organized Volunteers for the Elderly and Disadvantaged (LOVED)
New Vision Community Church
Outreach of America Ministries
South Texas Afghanistan Iraq Veterans Association
Webb County Community Action Agency