Mobile food distribution center in Marlin closes due to shortage of volunteers

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 6:48 PM CDT
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MARLIN, Texas (KWTX) - Around 200 families may go without food as a mobile food pantry in Marlin shuts its doors and it’s because of a shortage of volunteers.

The Shepherd’s Heart would take anywhere from 12 to 14,000 pounds of food for the food distribution events in Marlin.

The partnership between The Shepherd’s Heart and the Renewal Outreach Center in Marlin first began in June 2022, but the initial agreement between the two wasn’t always met.

On the second Tuesday of each month, The Shepherd’s Heart would bring their mobile food pantry to the Marlin Men’s Civic Association. The Shepherd’s Heart would supply the food and the Renewal Outreach Center was responsible for supplying 10 to 15 volunteers.

”The first time we had enough volunteers, but after that we only had about half that many,” Robert Gager, executive director of The Shepherd’s Heart, said.

Gager said sometimes only 4 volunteers showed up.

”I was already working with them for about six months to get volunteers and we still couldn’t get them,” Gager said.

John Armstrong, president of the Renewal Outreach Center, said with few volunteers the families would get frustrated.

”When you don’t have enough volunteers it takes longer to get the food to the cars,” he said.

After going too many months with not enough volunteers, The Shepherd’s Heart decided to end the food distribution events in Marlin. Gager said he is open to bringing the mobile pantry back to Marlin, but needs to see a plan from the Renewal Outreach Center to address the lack of volunteers first.

”I understand that there’s a need, but if they’re not going to step up as a community and say we want to own this, I can’t help you,” Gager said.

Armstrong said he’s already assembling a committee to figure out how to better recruit and retain reliable volunteers.

”We are looking forward to sitting down and having our first meeting soon to see what we can do with the proper volunteers,” Armstrong said.

Despite the closure of these mobile events in Marlin, there are some other local options for families in need.

Gager said families are welcome to pick up food at The Shepherd’s Heart’s main distribution center at 205 South 6th Street in Waco.

The Central Texas Food Bank also offers a mobile food distribution event on the 4th Tuesday of the month from 10 to 11 a.m. at the First Baptist Church in Marlin. The food bank also hosts mobile food distribution events on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 11 am to 1 pm at the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Marlin.