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UMTV: Food Bank for Vets

More than twenty-three million veterans live in the U.S. The Census Bureau says six out of every 100 live in poverty. As special ceremonies honor veterans, one church is reaching out with something much more practical than parades. Kim Riemland reports.

Script:

(Locator: Raymondville, TX)

Food pantry volunteer: "How you doing? Y'all look so handsome."

Eighty-eight-year-old Louis Castillo served in the Marines during World War II. Today, he has trouble making ends meet.

Louis Castillo, WWII Veteran: "There's a lot of people in this part of the Valley that need something like this."

About 30 veterans' families come to this Texas food pantry once a month, among them 80-year-old Nolasco Chavez.

Nolasco Chavez, Korean War Veteran: "I feel good. Because lots of people, they thank us, what we did."

Air Force veteran Rafael Cisneros is co-chairman of the food bank. He knows the value of support like this.

Rafael Cisneros, Food Bank Co-Chairman: "I feel bad coming back because at the time, there was a lot of people against Vietnam veterans."

The veterans' food ministry started two years ago at First United Methodist Church in Raymondville, Texas. The pastor notes this is one of the poorest areas in the U.S. - where some residents live in homes with dirt floors and no indoor plumbing.

The Rev. Janna Hawes, First United Methodist Church: "Some of our disabled veterans are not only raising grandchildren, they've got a lot of family responsibilities. And watching them struggle, it really touches my heart."

Food pantry volunteer to client: "How many adults are in your house? Four."

The local American Legion chapter and the church team up to provide funding and volunteers.

Veteran: "Thank you. God bless you."

Veterans get priority in the food distribution, but the doors are open to the whole community now.

Carol Godwin, Food Bank Coordinator: "We started out with just a little over 100 a year ago, to 300 plus now. And it's the economy."

George Solis, American Legion Commander: "This is, by far, our best program that we have."

The Rev. Janna Hawes: "It's given me a different kind of a perspective on who these people are."

Felipe Cruz, Veteran: "I was proud to serve, and I would do it again."

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Texas is among the states with the most veterans. Others states with more than a million veterans each include California, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

For more information on the food pantry, contact Raymondville First United Methodist Church at 956-689-3632.

This story was first published in November, 2009.