It was an article in a newsletter that was almost overlooked, only catching someone’s eye as they got ready to toss the publication away. That’s how a local food pantry construction project got started. And in the coming months it will begin helping provide fresh meat to the families who depend on it.
Hunters for the Hungry is a statewide program that encourages hunters to donate their deer to area food banks. In many cases, processors have arranged a special processing fee and will grind the venison into 2-pound packages that can be used by the food pantries. Since its beginning, Hunters for the Hungry has been a program with a lot of potential. Brown County even had a processor offering the special rate. The only problem was none of the area food pantries had enough storage for the program to really get off the ground here.
“It hadn’t taken off very good,” Angelia Bostick, the executive director at Good Samaritan Ministries, said. “We knew about the program and we’d gotten five or six deer. That’s (protein) the most expensive thing we purchase. That’s one of the things we really want to give folks. They need the protein. And to be able to vary the diet is important to nutrition and good health.”
Over the past few months several area businessmen, led by Kirk Wall, Weldon Wilson and Kirby Cabler, began talking about what an opportunity a local venison program could be, if only there was a freezer or storage vault large enough to store a significant amount of venison.
Wall got the ball rolling after having noticed the Hunters for the Hungry article on the back page of a Good Samaritan Ministries newsletter. A hunter himself, he was able to get Wilson, a hunting friend who had worked on charity projects with Wall in the past, on board for the project early. The two came up with the project’s name, The Deer (Dear) Project.
“When presenting this project to people - and it’s been this way with hunters and non-hunters alike - very quickly they see the opportunity,” Wall said. “Everyone realizes we live in a part of the country where we have an abundance of white tail deer. Most people, at least the ones we’ve talked to, have a total awareness that there are needy people as well. Hunger has got to be as elementary a need as there is.”
“It was a godsend when Kirk read that article. That’s what got the ball rolling,” Bostick said.
While speaking to the local Buckmasters chapter about the project, Wall met Charlie Cabler, who told him that he and his father’s company had installed vaults similar to the one he was describing as being necessary for the local program to reach its potential.
“It was a very easy decision for us to get involved,” said Kirby Cabler. “We were very interested in doing this. Once you go down there (Good Samaritan Ministries) and see what they do, it was a very easy decision. We’re proud to be a part of it.”
Once things started falling into place, Wall said, the project started to pick up steam. Roughly half of its $50,000 price tag has been donated by businesses around Brownwood, and even some from outside the area.
“Anyone we’ve talked to, it’s just been a quick response. They ask, ‘Why hasn’t this been done before now?’ They say, ‘This will work. This should work. This must work. How can I help?’” Wall said.
Cabler has donated his services as general contractor and the group has also lined up in-kind donations from Higginbothams, Ingram Enterprises, Angerstein Concrete, Pate’s Hardware, Sweetwater Steel, Booe Insulation, Roberts and Petty and the City of Brownwood as well as Weldon Wilson Electric. But the group still has about $25,000 of equipment and materials for which it will have to pay. According to Wall about half the money for that has already been raised.
When completed, the warehouse at Good Samaritan Ministries will include a 10 X 16 foot walk-in freezer and a 9 X 16 foot cooler vault. According to Cabler, the construction will take less than 30 days once the equipment is delivered. He reported at the group’s meeting last week that everything had been ordered.
Having a freezer and cooler unit is only part of the equation, though. Good Samaritan needs venison, as well as other types of meat, to fill the units. Wall said he spoke to the local chapter of Buckmasters early in the planning stages, and that the group has been helpful with ideas about securing venison.
Wilson said that any hunter wishing to donate venison is welcome to do so, but he asked that it be processed, and preferably packaged into 2-pound tubes of ground meat.
“We want them to bring Good Samaritan a processed deer,” he said. “Not steaks, ground meat is what’s needed.”
Heath Mayes of M&M Processors in Zephyr has already signed up to offer the special $35 processing rate for hunters who donate their deer to the food bank.
Since organizers hope that construction will be completed near the beginning of this year’s season, they are beginning to spread the word about their program and hope that hunters in the area will perhaps shoot an extra deer this season, and donate it and the processing to Good Samaritan. Wall said organizers are also still trying to raise about $12,000.
The project recently added yet another dimension when Michelle Thomas of Aldersgate learned about the plans and got to thinking about how her organization could get involved.
“We began looking at the ability to create jobs by creating a processing plant at Aldersgate,” she said. She has received the blessing of the Central Texas Conference United Methodist Men who will help construct the plant, which should be operational for the 2009 season.
For more information about donating a deer, or to learn more about Good Samaritan Ministries’ Food Bank, contact Bostick at 643-2273 or goodsam@bwoodtx.
com or online at www.goodsambwd.org. To donate to the construction project, contact Wall at 643-2521.
“It’s been really awesome and it’s affirmed what we do,” Bostick said. “To see that vision, that we had 15 years ago when we started, in the eyes of these folks, it brings the enthusiasm and excitement back that we had at the beginning.”