HARLINGEN — The scheduled time for residents to pick up groceries was 9 a.m. but by 8:15 a long line awaited volunteers.
A line of cars with residents waiting to get their groceries provided by the City of Harlingen in partnership with the RGV Food Bank snaked into the Harlingen Soccer Complex Wednesday. The line went all the way to Grimes Street and appeared to not cease.
“We are estimating around 1,200 people,” said Yara Doyle, Retail Partnership Manager at the RGV Food Bank.
Doyle said the line was ready to go by the time she arrived at 8 a.m. Doyle was in charge of checking for ID’s and counting the cars arriving.
Josh Ramirez, Health Director of the city of Harlingen, said the partnership with the food bank had been in the works for a couple of weeks.
It was a matter of deciding when and where the distribution of groceries would occur.
“The city manager secretary Soledad contacted me to see how they could help their citizens with food assistance and that’s how it came about,” Doyle said.
More distributions are scheduled for next Wednesday, April 29, and Friday, May 1, at the same location from 9 to 11 a.m.
The groceries were limited to two families per vehicle and bags included Honeydew apples, cucumbers, bread, eggs, tomatoes and more.
“I believe we have been pretty prepared. We started pre-making bags ahead of time and now that the National Guard has come to help us they have been a great resource for us,” Doyle said.
City of Harlingen staff members were in attendance to help alleviate the traffic while RGV Food Bank staff were in charge of grocery bags.
The food bank will continue to help cities and surrounding areas in the Valley.
Ramirez said he understood the help is needed throughout the region, not just Harlingen.
Both Doyle and Ramirez agreed the high turnout was not expected for the first time and showed the necessity Cameron County is currently experiencing.
“It just goes to show you there is a lot of need right now. People are not going to come out and wait for hours to get some free food if they don’t need it,” Doyle said.
Doyle praised the help of City of Harlingen staff members for working accordingly with her staff.
“They have been exceptional and a great help to us. We are trying to help as many people as we can,” she said.
Ayde Garcia, 32, was in line waiting for her groceries by herself. She said her household is of eight people, six children and her husband.
Garcia said her husband had just recently lost his job due to the COVID-19 economic crisis, which encouraged her to find help when available.
“I work for an awesome company who is helping us but that is the only income that is coming in right now. Any little help that we are getting is helping us survive the situation,” she said.
“He already applied for unemployment benefits but they are still not coming in. This help is going to be beneficial for me and my family,” she said.