STEPHEN HEMELT — Southeast Texas Food Bank holds firm in lean times

Published 12:22 am Saturday, May 16, 2020

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Established in 1940, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health is working to support and foster Texas communities that support the mental health and well-being of all.

Part of the effort includes grantmaking to collaboratively “transform how communities promote mental health in everyday life.”

The Southeast Texas Food Bank was the beneficiary of a Hogg Foundation grant this week, securing $1,500 to use in local efforts to feed the needy.

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When we talked this week, Dan Maher, CEO of the Southeast Texas Food Bank, said donation support has stayed “amazingly strong” in terms of consistency throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Food bank leaders recognize the unique situation the whole nation is facing through COVID-19 stress.

“We’re used to the kind of disaster we respond to being a more regionalized disaster,” Maher said. “In that case, you expect donations to flow in from around the country. In this case, we were not sure how that would play out because the whole nation is under the same kind of strain. I’m really edified how the local community, especially businesses and individuals, stepped up and raised their spirit of giving in response to the traumatic and evident need constantly being highlighted in the news.”

Maher points to record unemployment numbers and the constant stream of human-interest stories about individual impacts that are really resonating to those in Southeast Texas who can help.

The Southeast Texas Food Bank was impacted by COVID-19 in a lack of volunteer man hours. Understandably, at least initially, community members did not want to leave their homes.

Maher said the food bank adapted.

“The community, as a whole, has had to adapt to this, and there has been remarkable adaptability,” he said. “Volunteerism is actually reasonably strong right now. It could probably always be stronger, but it has bounced back in a way that allows us to maintain our productivity levels. Initially, we were very concerned. The response is a tribute to the community, seeing their neighbors in need and they have the ability and capacity to be involved and the want to do so. That has really been amazing.”

Those interested in donating their time are asked to log onto, where it is easy to identify available shifts and how many people are needed on those shifts.

There is a volunteer button on the top of the main page highlighted in green, where users create a volunteer profile. From there, they gain access to the shifts and can sign-up for volunteer hours.

Those down on their luck and in need of food help are also directed to There is a “Get Help” tab that links to a drop down menu, breaking down services in partner counties.

The Jefferson County Food Assistance page lists 24 area agencies, contact numbers and hours of service to best serve local needs.

“It gives you their contact information, and that allows you to reach out to them,” Maher said. “Reach out to the ones more locally in your community and let them know your needs. They will be able to guide you through that process.”

For more information, call 409-839-8777.


Stephen Hemelt is publisher of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at or 409-721-2445.