Salvation Army distributed 17.5 tons of free food on Friday

Families, disabled individuals and others facing food insecurity each received an average of 70 pounds of food at a food distribution event Jan. 28, 2012 by the Salvation Army San Antonio Metropolitan Area Command.

“This is not something I want to do. It’s something I have to do in order to survive,” said Donald Ray Holt, 62, who stood first in line.

At 5 a.m., Holt said he steered his motorized wheelchair onto a bus near his apartment on Zarzamora and Culebra and arrived at the Salvation Army just before 6 a.m. He sat waiting for more than four hours for five bags of food, which included several heads of cabbage, dozens of empanadas, several containers of sour cream, bottles of lemonade, boxes of Keebler crackers and chocolate chip cookies.

The Salvation Army gave away 17.5 tons of food Friday, Jan. 27, from the San Antonio Food Bank to 500 San Antonio residents. Many came by foot from nearby housing centers while others like Holt came by bus. Several drove into a vehicular line that stretched several blocks surrounding the Salvation Army buildings. The 70 pounds of food they received is enough for about 10 days for a family of four.

“Some have been coming to us for 10 years. Some have been coming for six months and for some of them, this might be the first time they’ve ever come,” said Mary Anne Votion, program administrator for the Salvation Army.

“There are many various circumstances that put people where they are,” said Marion Barth, who was one of about 75 volunteers assisting with the food distribution on Friday.  “If you are living on minimum wage and both of you are working, it’s not a lot of money if you are raising two or three children. Many times it’s circumstances not under people’s control that brings them where they are. And people have to eat.”

Holt worked as a short order cook and as a professional clown after serving in Vietnam with the Army. He was diagnosed with emphysema in 2000 and his lung collapsed several times, rendering him wheelchair-bound and unable to work.

Behind him, Marcheyell Baldwin, 43, slipped and fell off concrete steps four years ago and broke her back.

“I was really ashamed to ask for help or to say, ‘I need food. I’m hungry,’” Baldwin said. “But when you go a few days at a time and all you have to eat is a can of noodle soup, you get so hungry, you want to cry.”

Her friend, 58-year-old Deborah Alfrido, added, “You’re not stealing. You’re not prostituting. You’re not doing anything illegal. You’re getting the food the right way. At first it was hard and embarrassing. But you have to stop and think. You have to eat and where are you going to get it from?”

The Salvation Army distributes food through its food pantry program every week. Each month, 1,200 families visit the food pantry. Families earning 120 percent of the poverty level or less qualify for the food pantry program.

Every three months, the Salvation Army works with the Food Bank to provide supplemental food. There are no income requirements for this program.

“Folks in our community are in need and it takes all of us to care and show our compassion,” said Sgt. Scott Hurula of the Salvation Army.

To volunteer with the Salvation Army or to make a contribution, call (210) 352-2000.