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The East Texas Food Bank: Fighting Hunger, Feeding Hope

Written and Photographed by Barbara King

The rafters are piled high with food in the 75,000 square foot warehouse, ready for distribution throughout East Texas to those in need. Since 1988, the East Texas Food Bank has been the crucial conduit for the distribution of donated and purchased food to more than 200 partner agencies located throughout a 26-county service area.

et-food-bank-9The statistics may be staggering to some; the East Texas Food Bank provided 18,500 meals to East Texans in 2015, serving 252,900 clients. And taught many people how to qualify for food stamps, and helped them fill out applications. As Chief Executive Officer Dennis Cullinane explains, “Families struggle and can face unexpected bills and hardships. We provide a safety net and assist in helping provide fresh, high quality nutritious foods.” Cullinane added that one of the main issues arising in their mission is the intersection of hunger and health. “Families that are struggling to stretch a dollar tend to gravitate towards inexpensive food items that are rich in calories, but poor in nutritional value. These choices can lead to increased health complications such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.”

The nutritious mix of product lining their shelves comes from a variety of sources including private donations from local and national manufacturers, distributors and grocers, farmers and food drives. The Food Bank works alongside 144 food pantries and 25 soup kitchens or on-site feeding programs.

The food is collected in many shapes and sizes, and a large part of the distribution involves the sorting and packing of anything that arrives in bulk form. On any given day you will see scores of volunteers in the warehouse, sorting, packing, and helping get the orders ready for distribution.

et-food-bank-1Rosann Blood, a longtime volunteer at the East Texas Food Bank for over 20 years, originally came with a church group, but now comes on her own to help make a difference. “I love to volunteer here and knowing it helps someone else be happy and healthy keeps me coming back.” Today she is bagging large quantities of pasta, and she says every time she comes, she helps with another needed project.

Karolyn Davis, Communications Director says, “Our success is built from the support of the East Texas community through a variety of ways such as time, donations, and food. We have over 10,000 volunteers a year come through our doors to help support our mission for a hunger-free East Texas.” All volunteers are accepted as young as the age of six (with some adult supervision.) Volunteers are welcome Monday through Thursday from 8:30am-12 noon, 1-4:30pm and from 5:30-8:30pm. Fridays are reserved for groups, and all requests can be made on the website with an online application at www.easttexasfoodbank.org.

The Tyler Junior College baseball team of 35 players and 3 coaches recently spent a morning bagging six pallets (40,000 pounds) of rotini pasta for distribution which will feed 33,750 folks in need. Head Baseball Coach Doug Wren said, “The team likes to try to volunteer every January before the season starts. The team learns that life is not all about baseball; it’s a teamwork project that impacts a lot of people in our community in a short amount of time.”

The East Texas Food Bank does so much more to support our community through programs which benefit a wide variety of people. Partnering with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office and the Smith County Agricultural Extension office and the Flint Baptist Church, they operate two gardens on a combined ten acres of land. The Backpack program provides nutritious meals to low-income children who participate in school meal programs but face hunger on the weekends. Thanks to the BackPack program, during the 2014-2015 school year, the East Texas Food Bank provided more than 36,000 meals and nearly 129,000 snacks to needy school age children.

et-food-bank-7The summer food program provides free breakfasts and lunches to children who are at-risk of going hungry over the summer months. The Food Bank also partners with programs such as Meals on Wheels to assist seniors who receive meal assistance during the week, but also need help to avoid going hungry on the weekends. The Senior Servings program helps fill this gap.

The East Texas Food Bank also runs mobile pantries with their fleet of trucks, distributing food to clients in areas where there may not be an existing partner agency.

One of the main priorities of the Food Bank is to “educate and enlighten individuals about healthier, more economical food choices,” said Davis. “It may be surprising to some, but if you go to a grocery store, the exterior of the store with fresh produce and meats is where you should shop; the interior is full of packaged, inexpensive fillers that are not high in nutritional value.” The East Texas Food Bank provides nutrition classes that teach low-income individuals the basics of food budgeting and good eating habits.

As part of their Outreach program, the East Texas Food Bank encourages clients to utilize all resources available to them, such as federal and state nutrition programs, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). “In 2015, we helped more than 2,000 individuals submit SNAP applications,” Davis said.

“Individuals and corporations that make gifts to the East Texas Food Bank can be assured that 95 cents out of every dollar goes directly to programs and services,” explained Davis. “We encourage people to get involved at any level that is comfortable for them, including volunteering on site, hosting a food drive, or giving a donation through our secure website.”

See how you can make a difference in the lives of East Texans, visit the East Texas Food Bank website at www.easttexasfoodbank.org, call (903)597-3663, or visit them at www.facebook.com/EastTexasFoodBank.

The East Texas Food Bank is located at 3201 Robertson Road in Tyler.

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Downtown Tyler

Hit the Bricks July 11th: ‘Arachnids’ Opens, Online Concerts & Cool Masks

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For more events, check out EGuideMagazine.com ‘s entire

For the month of July, Hit the Bricks will be partially online with all restaurants and stores reopen to the public. Follow Downtown Tyler and Hit the Bricks on Facebook for updates and more information.

And don’t forget your mask – help end this madness and wear a mask when out in public! Get a cool one at Brands & Threads Apparel Co., now located at 316 S. Broadway (across the street from their old location). Check out their cool stuff at their new store or at facebook.com/BrandsandThreads. They are open 9am-1pm.

Show your support for Tyler’s businesses by being part of Visit Tyler’s Rose City Strong campaign. Purchase Rose City Strong gear and download the Rose City Strong Facebook profile frame. Go to your Facebook page and select “Update Profile Photo,” then select “Add a Frame” and search for Rose City Strong.

Activities

Gallery Main Street is now open inside the new atrium at Plaza Tower and a new art exhibit by John Deaton will be on display. All art is available for purchase. The gallery is open to the public 11am-11:30pm.

Discovery Science Place, located at 308 N. Broadway, will be opening the newest exhibit “The Art and Science of Arachnids” 10am-5pm. Visitors will explore the largest traveling arachnid display in North America as they discover human-arachnid cultural connections through hands-on activities like building robots, conducting science experiments, creating your own arachnid art, and more. The exhibit also displays 100 live arachnids – including endangered species like the Tiger tarantula and Mexican Red Knee tarantula, alien-looking tailless whip scorpions, and beautiful Peacock tarantulas and Sun Tiger tarantulas! (All safely enclosed in their habitats of course!

Tyler Public Library, located at 201 S. College, has re-open its doors with modified operating hours of Monday-Friday from 10am-5pm. The Library will be allowing up to 30 patrons at a time and continuing to hold modified operations. Library facilities have been modified to encourage social distancing. Call (903)593-7323 to speak to a member of the Library staff. And don’t forget to log your summer reading or sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge at tpl.beanstack.org! The challenge continues through July 31st. Children and teens who read 12 hours earn a FREE book and t-shirt and are eligible for other rewards. Adults who read 8 books receive a FREE tote bag and may select a FREE book from the Library’s Book Nook.

And don’t forget that the Tyler Library just added another Grab and Go Kit for you to enjoy. This FREE kit has supplies for making a heart-shaped bird feeder with a pipe cleaner and cheerios. You can pick this and other Makerspace Grab and Go kits at the Makerspace table inside the Library.

Urban Deaux Candle Co. & Mercantile Store and 903 Closet, located at 317 S. Bois D’Arc Ave.will be offering two candle-pouring classes – “Paint, Sip & Pour” at 3pm and 6pm. Sign up at facebook.com/pg/urbandeauxcandle/.

Liberty Hall is celebrating its 90th anniversary! Join them on Facebook Live for “Liberty Live: Concerts from the Couch.” The lineup is: 11-11:30am: Cody Norman; 11:30am-12 noon: Covenant Olatunde; 12 noon-12:30pm: Lucas Kelm; and 12:30-1pm: 2nd Childhood.

Watch KLTV’sOne Texas: Songs from Home” concert.

The Joanitones at ETX Brewing from 8-10pm. There is no cover and all ages are welcome as well as your four-legged friends.

Restaurants

1948 Coffee & Juice Co. is now open offering a full espresso bar, cold-pressed juices, smoothie bowls, vegan eats, organic and gluten-free options, and more! Also, downtown’s Urban Market, which is in 1948 Coffee’s area, offers goods and food from all over the world.

Andy’s Frozen Custard, located at 110 S. College Ave., is open 11am-12 midnight.

Black Pearl, located at 106 W. Erwin St., is still closed however their Food Menu & Cocktails are available at Ricks on the Square after 4pm.

Culture ETX, located at 118 W. Erwin St., is open from 5-10pm.

Don Juan on The Square, located at 113 E. Erwin St., is open 11am-9pm.

The Foundry Coffee House, located at 202 S. Broadway Ave., is open 7am-6pm. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Porch at  ETX Brewery, located at 221 S. Broadway Ave., is open 11am-11:30pm. They offer beer to-go too!

SportsZone, located at 115 E. Erwin St., is open at 3pm-1am.

Rhea’s Hot Links, located at 204 S. Fannin St., is open from 9am-5:30pm. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Rick’s on the Square, located at 104 W. Erwin St., is open 4pm-1am.

Tapatio’s Grill Chicken, located at 614 W. Valentine St., is open 10am-11pm.

True Vine on the Square, located 110 S. College Ave. Suite 102, is open 4-8pm. They offer beer to-go too by an individualized Pick Six option. Pick six 12oz cans or six 16oz cans or two 12oz and four 16oz, or three of each, the limit does not exist (well okay it exists up to 288 ounces per day, but you get it.) Order online or in-person for pickup. Be sure to try the new “Galactic Minotaurt Gose” variation – total cucumber and watermelon yumminess!

There are usually a few Food Trucks hanging around Downtown as well so there’s no excuse to leave hungry with all of the dining options because in Downtown you can have your cake and eat it too.

Shopping

Backbone Hair + Beauty, located at 235 S. Broadway, is open 9am-5pm. Get a stylish new hairdo along with experiencing a downtown jibe in this hip new hair salon. They also sell a line of cool t-shirts and hair products.

Brands & Threads Apparel Co. is now located at 316 S. Broadway (across the street from their old location). Check out their cool stuff at their new store or at facebook.com/BrandsandThreads. They are open 9am-1pm. And to note, they are offering VERY COOL custom-made masks too!

Cindy’s Balloons, located at 301 E. Elm St., is open from 9am-5pm.

Moss: Where Flowers are Fair, located at 237 S. Broadway Ave., is open 10am-3pm.

Salvation Army Thrift Shop, is open to treasure and bargain hunters alike. They are located at 723 N. Broadway, open 10am-5pm.

Urban Deaux Candle Co. & Mercantile Store and 903 Closet is located at 317 S. Bois D’Arc Ave. and open 11am-6pm.

Ye Olde City Antiques is open again at 302 E. Locust after a recent fire took out part of their showroom. They will offer hidden bricks with discounts for all Hit the Brick shoppers.

Museums & More

Take a virtual tour of the Goodman LeGrand House and Museum while listening to the audio tour from our Roses and Weeds podcast. The museum is open for visitors 11am-4pm. Capacity limit of 5 visitors at a time.

Smith County Historical Society is open by appointments only.

Gallery Main Street is now located in the lobby of Plaza Tower. Go to DowntownTyler.org to view and purchase artwork in the current exhibit.

More Info

Hit the Bricks is held rain or shine, cold or hot, and even amid pandemics. Help us support our local Downtown businesses during this time. For more information, visit the event on Facebook or download the FREE app “EGuide Tyler TX.”

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Family

TJC Science Center features New Dome Show & Private Screenings

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The Tyler Junior College Earth and Space Science Center featuring Hudnall Planetarium is offering a new dome show on how we see — plus an option to reserve the theater for a private screening.

Narrated by renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, “Seeing! A Photon’s Journey” takes the audience on an exploration of the life of a photon. The 22-minute, full-immersion planetarium show uses hemispheric 2D and 3D animations and video to teach how human vision works.

Imagery from all over the world — including humanity, landscapes, skyscapes, wildlife and space — provides the backdrop for photo-realistic animations that create the story of a photon’s journey through the human eye and its conversion to an electrochemical impulse that travels the neural pathways from the brain to the various centers that create the image the brain sees.

“Audiences will be amazed by this show and how technology has enabled us to restore vision and prevent a variety of diseases that affect sight,” said Dr. Beau Hartweg, TJC science center director.

Daily shows and showtimes are:

  • 11 a.m. — Children’s Show
  • 12:15 p.m. — “Space Park 360”
  • 1:30 p.m. — “Seeing! A Photon’s Journey”
  • 2:45 p.m. — “The Hot and Energetic Universe”
  • 4 p.m. — “The Sun, Our Living Star”

Individual tickets are $3 per person, and advance online reservations are required. Policies and procedures have been modified for the health and safety of science center visitors, and guests are advised to review the guidelines on the website before their visit. The dome theater is thoroughly cleaned between each showing.

On Tuesdays through Fridays throughout the summer, guests can reserve a private screening in the planetarium during the 9:45 a.m. timeslot. For a $25 flat fee, up to 15 visitors can enjoy a private viewing of any one of the shows from the center’s existing library.

To purchase advance tickets and review the health and safety guidelines, go to sciencecenter.tjc.edu.

The science center is located at 1411 E. Lake St., on the TJC main campus. Operating hours are 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, and private screening showtimes are 9:45 a.m. Tuesdays-Fridays. Parking is free.

For more information, go to sciencecenter.tjc.edu.

More To Do The Science Center This Summer

The summer schedule is June 22-August 29. This summer we have some exciting new additions, along with discounted summer rates of just $3 tickets!
First, TJC’s Science Center is offering private show screenings at 9:45am Tuesday-Friday for those guests who would like the option to reserve the planetarium for their family and friends. For $25 (or $20 for members, please call for discount code) you may reserve our planetarium theater for up to 15 people. You can select any one of our planetarium shows from the show library to enjoy with just your family and friends. Selections include children’s shows, live narrated presentations, documentary-style movies, as well as music and holiday shows.
This summer TJC’s Science Center is also premiering our brand new show, “Seeing! A Photon’s Journey.” Join famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as he takes you on a journey exploring the life of a photon. Discover how the eye works, how technology has enabled us to restore vision and prevent a variety of diseases that affect sight in the show “Seeing”.
TJC’s Science Center is also thrilled to bring back our popular Space Park 360 show. This is a thrilling 9-ride show that takes audiences on a wild immersive ride through the Solar System while recreating the experience of amusement park thrill rides—roller coasters, pendulums, inverters and more.
And rest assured that they are continuing to follow health and safety guidelines and recommendations, with spread-out seating in the planetarium, ample cleaning in between shows, and social distancing markers. We also require that all tickets be purchased online for a contactless payment process.

More Info

The science center is located at 1411 E. Lake St., on the TJC main campus. Operating hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. Parking is free.

For more information, go to sciencecenter.tjc.edu.

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Free Stuff

Get Outside: Tyler Parks, Trails & SplashPads Are Open

Tyler area parks and trails are NOW open to the public! We ask that anyone visiting the parks and trails carry hand sanitizer with them. Washing hands and wiping off any equipment before and after use can also help prevent the spread of germs and other harmful bacteria. Residents and visitors should continue to practice social distancing and follow all recommended CDC guidelines. As always, if you, your child, or someone in your home is sick or at higher risk for infection, please stay home.

If you have any questions about park facilities or to report a maintenance issue with a splashpad, please call Parks Admin at (903) 531-1370.

  • Bergfeld Park Splashpad – Opens Monday, June 8. Admission: FREE, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. everyday
  • Faulkner Park Splashpad – Opens Monday, June 8, Admission: FREE, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. everyday
  • Fun Forest Pool & Splashpad – Opening June 2020! For more information, visit the Fun Forest Pool webpage. Admission: FREE
  • Woldert Splashpad – Opening Soon! Admission: FREE, Open 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Everyday

Splashpad Activation

The City of Tyler’s conservation initiatives involves reducing the use of potable water at the splashpads. In order to reduce consumption, the splashpad is on a timer which must be reactivated every 5 to 10 minutes depending on the facility. To activate the splashpad during open hours, you must hit the activation pad.

  • Faulkner Park Splashpad– Touch to activate pad near splashpad.
  • Bergfeld Park Splashpad – Step to activate pad near the bench.

Summer Feeding Program

The Tyler Parks and Recreation Department along with East Texas Food Bank will host a 10-week Summer Curbside Feeding Program. During this time, Parks and Rec Staff will be distributing weekly activity kits to take home and enjoy. Our goal is to keep providing nutritious meals to the children in our community, along with giving opportunities to have some fun activities to do.

Dates: June 1 – Aug. 7

Locations: Glass Recreation Center, Gassaway Park, and Winters Park.

Time:  Lunch: Noon – 1 p.m. at all locations. Breakfast and lunch will be available at Glass Recreation Center during the lunch hour.

Weekly Summer Activities Kits: Activity fun kits will be distributed each Monday to all kids during lunch between 12 – 1 p.m. Kits will consist a variety of art and crafts projects for kids to do at home.

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