ETOILE, TX (KTRE) - Diligent volunteer effort in Etoile has led to the rural town having its own standalone food pantry.
Etoile Food Pantry serves about 80 clients a month. They live in the far southeastern parts of Nacogdoches County, down dirt roads and in deep woods. The demographic is typical for most any rural Deep East Texas community.
"We did a survey a little while ago that showed that our community has more than a 60-percent poverty rate," said volunteer Jan Amen.
For over a year, Etoile Food Pantry volunteers would make the 40-mile round trip to Lufkin to pick up pre-selected food items dropped off by the East Texas Food Bank in Tyler.
"The ultimate goal is to get you from a mobile pantry to a standalone pantry," said Coordinator Tom Hottman.
The goal was met this week. Enough monetary donations from churches, individuals, and grants are in the bank to procure a variety of foods from the regional food bank.
Clients now choose what they want to take home.
"This is a lot better, sure is," one client said. "Because when they had it boxed up, there was a lot of that stuff I didn't like."
Jamie McMullen likes spreading her meals out farther.
"You have some extra stuff that you can make a meal out of when normally, you couldn't," she said.
Volunteers will still drive to Lufkin for food selections, so clients can remain close to home.
"It can be very expensive," Gwenda Britt said. "The gas and the wear and tear on your vehicle, and it's so nice to come to your own community to get this."
The Etoile Food Pantry is open once a month on the third Tuesday of each month from noon to 3 p.m. Food distribution happens at the Etoile Volunteer Fire Department on State Highway 103 East.