by Emily Miller, Austin Texas Stake Communication Director
ROUND ROCK, Texas — On the morning of Aug. 11, a semi-truck full of food from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived at the Bishops’ Storehouse and Home Storage Center located just a few miles north of Austin.
In the weeks preceding the delivery, arrangements had been made for the nonperishable commodities including peanut butter, dry cereal, canned fruit, pancake mix, and more, to be donated to five organizations in the greater Austin area — Caritas of Austin, an organization whose mission is to prevent and end homelessness; Refugee Services of Texas, an organization that aids refugees; Manor Disaster Relief’s community pantry; Paula’s Pantry at Pflugerville First United Methodist Church; and the food pantry at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.
More than 100 volunteers assisted in sorting more than 20,000 pounds of food, in loading it onto cars, vans, trucks, and trailers, and in transporting the donations to their destination where they will be distributed to members of the community in need in the coming weeks.
A group of eleven full-time missionaries from the Texas Austin Mission were at the Bishops’ Storehouse at 8:15 am, shortly after the semi-truck pulled in. As twelve pallets were being unloaded from the truck, the volunteers got to work, sorting the more than 800 cases of food for the different organizations.
Elder Cooper Cox, a missionary from St. George, Utah, was one of the missionaries who volunteered that morning. He reflected, “One thing that kept coming to mind as we were sorting through all the boxes and as we were talking about it, was all the people that this food would reach.” Cox continued, “We’re out here serving the Lord, focusing on others instead of ourselves. It’s awesome to think how something so simple for us can be so life-changing for others. One of those boxes can literally mean the world to someone.”
Later that evening, dozens of additional volunteers converged on the Bishops’ Storehouse with a large caravan of vehicles. The volunteers included sixteen members of the Mount Bonnell Ward, located in the Austin Texas Stake. The Mount Bonnell Ward is a congregation for individuals ages 18 to 30 who are unmarried.
Anson Pratt, a member of the congregation who was present that evening, assisted in loading the cases onto vehicles. He reflected, “For our ward especially, the more opportunities we have to serve, the better.” He felt that the project was especially timely given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the current surge in infections because of the Delta variant. According to Pratt, “I talked with a couple other volunteers. It was a really eye-opening and humbling experience, especially during this time with the variant and uncertainty. A lot of people in the world are starting to shut down or get more divisive. It was a really nice experience for us to forget ourselves and go to work, as President Gordon B. Hinckley once said. It’s not about us, it’s about others. It’s about following the example of Jesus Christ.”
Among those who helped to transport and unload the food was a group of twenty teens and their adult leaders from the Elgin Ward, also located in the Austin Texas Stake. The volunteers delivered 250 cases of food to the Manor Disaster Relief community pantry. As their group unloaded thousands of cans, boxes, and pouches of food and placed them on the previously empty pantry shelves, they were able to see the magnitude of the donation. Elizabeth Kelley, one of the youth’s leaders, observed, “They were talking about it while they were stocking the shelves about how it would help others. They were really happy about that. There’s a spirit to service that creates a bond of friendship. We saw that a lot last night as they worked together.”
Gary Bronson, a member of the High Council of the Austin Texas Stake, was present for the donation to the Pflugerville First United Methodist Church on Wednesday evening. While Methodist and Latter-day Saint volunteers unloaded hundreds of cases of food together, Bronson and his wife received a tour of the food pantry and enjoyed seeing firsthand the great work that is done there.
Bronson, a long-time resident of Pflugerville, said, “We’ve always made it a priority here in Pflugerville to work with the other churches and community organizations in the area to improve conditions of people, to help feed them or clothe them or keep the city beautiful. This was a great opportunity to do that.”
The purpose of Wednesday’s donation was twofold: First and foremost, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints seek to follow the example of Jesus Christ in helping those in need. Second, this donation was an opportunity to build relationships with community service organizations and with individuals of other faiths. Both of these objectives were accomplished as dozens of volunteers came together and combined their efforts to do good together.