Throwing Away the Box
October 23, 2020
There are people who think outside the box and there are people who throw the box away. The leaders at Rancho Brazos Community Center are proudly the latter. Since 2003 they have offered free after-school programs with a hot meal to underserved neighborhoods in Acton, TX. As they expanded, they offered more services such as hygiene and parenting classes, but their primary service has always been after-school programming. Then COVID-19 hit.
After-school programs were cancelled for safety purposes and the Rancho Brazos Community Center had to rethink their work. Immediately the Board of Directors and Executive Director knew the students they served in their programs would be in need of food. These children and teens were not only going to miss out on their school lunches, but also on the hot meals they were eating during the Center’s after-school programs.
They decided they had to pivot to become a food pantry during the pandemic and they had to make that transition quickly. With such a creative board, dedicated to serving these students, the conversion was effective. They worked in two ways. First, they put together food boxes families could take home each month and second, they began delivering hot meals Monday through Friday to 100 families.
Every weekday at 11:30 volunteers came to a space that used to house rows of desks and bustling children but became filled with food. They worked diligently to get hot meals out their doors to hungry families. At other times, volunteers processed donations, prepared food boxes, and distributed those boxes. Their volunteers transitioned in record time to stand in the gap for families in need.
“One of the ways we were able to make this change so quickly was the grant we received from TMF,” Board Member Maria Reed shared. “God gave us the resources we needed in the nick of time.”
Their grant from TMF greatly expanded their capacity. They were able to work with a local butcher to get healthy food for their students and they were able to work with a local Kroger to buy food in bulk. The grant allowed them to scale up their work quickly and helped them reach 100 families.
Rancho Brazos Community Center has always seen itself as a ministry that fills gaps first and foremost. COVID-19 was simply the latest problem. Filling gaps means they have stretched themselves to offer diapers to those in need or blessing bags filled with toiletries, but mostly it means they have been nimble enough to adapt to needs as they arose in the community.
“Our leaders decided we are not just an after-school program. We are a ministry,” Maria said joyfully. “Our goal is to give people hope and many people who do not have adequate resources start to lose hope. TMF is helping us fill the gap by enabling people to feel food secure. If they feel secure even for a moment, that relieves a burden from people’s hearts and minds. Having a partner like TMF helped us go farther than we could ever have gone alone.”