PHARR — The 93-degree weather did not keep people from arriving hours before boxes of groceries were scheduled to be distributed at two locations here in Pharr.
The city of Pharr, in partnership with Hispanic Star and Love Soldiers, distributed 1,000 boxes of groceries, free of charge, to local families Friday at the Pharr Events Center and the Pharr Development & Research Center. Five-hundred boxes were distributed at each location.
Cars began lining up at the Pharr Events Center at 12:30 p.m. By 3:30, the line of cars stretched down East Sioux Road to North Veterans Boulevard.
About 500 RRR Brand tomato boxes were stacked in the cool air conditioning of the events center as volunteers prepared for the 4 p.m. hour.
“It’s just an eye-opener,” Pharr City Commissioner Bobby Carrillo said prior to the commencement of the distribution. “We still need to be very preventive and try to be safe, but we’re out here helping people that are in need. Obviously everyone is still not employed yet, so there are still a lot of necessities around in our area.”
The distribution was part of the One United RGV campaign which aims to provide food for numerous communities throughout the Rio Grande Valley in a span of 10 days. The campaign kicked off on Friday with distributions in Progreso, Monte Alto, Hargill and Pharr.
The campaign continued Saturday in McAllen and will continue Sunday in Hidalgo from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pumphouse, located at 902 S. Second St.
“I know here we’re basically giving away 500 boxes of food that can serve four to five people,” Carillo said. “I think we’ll be able to serve at least 2,000 people just at our location… Hopefully by the end of the day, we’ll be able to serve 4,000 to 5,000 meals.”
Each box contained fresh bananas, carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapeños, onions, limes, bags of rice and bags of pinto beans, and two rolls of toilet paper.
At about 4:05 p.m., the line of cars began to move, snaking around the back of the events center towards a garage door where four distribution stations were set up.
As cars pulled up, drivers wearing face masks presented their proof of residency (a valid ID or a light or water bill). They were met by Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, Commissioners Daniel Chavez and Commissioner Carillo, and Perla Tamez, founder of Love Soldiers.
“Thank you for coming,” Hernandez said to masked citizens. “Don’t forget to do the Census.”
His sentiment was echoed among the other commissioners, Tamez, and volunteers as they carried the boxes to awaiting citizens.
Tamez established Love Soldiers less than a year ago. According to her, the entire operation came to fruition in a matter of 10 days while she was in quarantine.
“Love Soldiers is an organization that ignites souls around the world to do acts of kindness,” Tamez said. “We did a partnership with Hispanic Star from New York City. Hispanic Star is a platform to unify Hispanics around the U.S. Our campaign was derailed due to COVID-19. In order to get a kickstart and do something with all the leaders throughout the United States, we decided to ignite them to do acts of kindness.”
Tamez said that the campaign started with an idea to provide meals for 1,000 people, but support quickly grew and soon the campaign had over 5,500 boxes to distribute throughout the Valley.
“Cities, elected officials, commissioners, judges, and mayors started contacting us to be able to unite this,” Tamez said. “At the local level, we did a partnership with HELP (Here, Everybody Loves People), which is a nonprofit that Tania Ramirez owns. She’s a commissioner in McAllen, and she’s very involved in her community. She connected us to other elected officials as well. That’s how all of this became a reality.”
Following Sunday’s distribution in Hidalgo, the campaign is scheduled to continue on Monday in Mercedes at Rio Life Community Church, located at 1112 S. Rio Rico Road from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Weslaco at The Blue Onion at 423 S. International Blvd. from 3 to 5 p.m.
The campaign will also have distributions on Tuesday in San Juan at Doedyns Elementary School, located at 1401 N. Raul Longoria Road from 4 to 8 p.m., and Alamo at PSJA Memorial Early College High School, located at 800 S. Alamo Road from 4 to 8 p.m.
“I am humbled and honored with the abundance of love and monetary support to this because we have people who are sponsors, we have people who are volunteers, and we have donors who are donating from $5 to upwards of multiple thousands,” Tamez said. “Being able to mobilize the entire RGV as a united community with no barriers has been mind-boggling. I never thought we were going to get this kind of support.”
More information, including the entire distribution calendar, can be found at www.oneunitedrgv.org. Anyone with questions can call (956) 305-5141 or (956) 683-7770.