Tzu Chi’s Southern Region Resumes Food Distributions in Houston

Southern  | May 27, 2021
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Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region resumes food distributions on March 6th. Professor Tiffany D. Thomas, who is also the Chair of the Housing and Community Affairs Committee for District F in Texas (left), inspired Halle Soffner (right) and many other students to help. Photo/Jean Hsu

Written by Jean Hsu, Jennifer Chien  
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Diana Chang, Adriana DiBenedetto

After a two-month pause on distribution services, Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region relaunched the Houston community’s food distribution project on March 6th, 2021, to help local families in urgent need of assistance. That day, Tzu Chi volunteers were joined by Houston City Council Member Tiffany D. Thomas and several students from the university where she teaches. 

Cherishing The Opportunity to Serve

Volunteers enthusiastically sign up to participate in Tzu Chi’s food distribution event held on March 6th. Photo/Jean Hsu

Roger Lin, a volunteer in charge of the food distribution program for Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region, explained that Tzu Chi and the Houston Food Bank launched the food distribution project to help families experiencing food insecurity after the pandemic began. Amidst a drastic rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Houston, however, the food distributions had to be temporarily suspended for two months to safeguard the health of the community. 

Texas, nevertheless, was among the states that experienced extreme winter weather conditions in mid-February. Roger Lin explained that the blizzard damaged many houses, and lack of power and water led to myriad challenges for residents. Recognizing the needs of the community, Tzu Chi reached out to the food bank to finalize the renewal of the food distribution project.

Upon hearing that the project would indeed resume, volunteers had enthusiastically filled every open slot to offer their help in less than a day. One volunteer, Ping Yi, said that the period when activities were suspended had provided a sort of epiphany. She realized that when there’s an opportunity to help, she must seize the opportunity and cherish every moment.

Volunteers mindfully organize fruits and vegetables before the distribution. Photo/Jean Hsu
Volunteers provide residents with the necessary forms while waiting in line. Photo/Jean Hsu

Understanding Needs of The Community

Council Member Tiffany D. Thomas is the Chair of the Housing and Community Affairs Committee for District F, and has served the District and the greater Houston area with care and dedication for years. She is also the Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Community Development at Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU). Council Member Thomas not only accepted the invitation to visit Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region to learn more about the food distribution, but also inspired her students to participate and better understand the needs of the community as well.

Council Member Thomas explained that amid the ongoing pandemic, many people are in need of assistance. Our older community members and single-parent households, for example, have faced multiple barriers during these profoundly challenging times. And the unified efforts of the city council, local volunteers, and organizations, is indeed vital for empowering communities.

Seniors who live nearby arrive at the pick-up area. Photo/Jean Hsu

After visiting and listening to a briefing on Tzu Chi’s food distribution activities, many students from PVAMU also donned Tzu Chi’s signature vests and helped prepare groceries for the distribution. Although it was their first time participating in a Tzu Chi event, the students took on the responsibility with zeal. 

Ocie Miles, a student from PVAMU, said that today would be a day of unique importance for him. He and his classmates were able to come to the food distribution event to help hundreds of residents, and they saw the needs of their community with greater clarity and compassion.

Uniting to Serve With Love

Some people feel that they are not cared for or trusted, but the volunteers gave them face-to-face care during the event, allowing them to understand that others empathize with them. I have learned that there are many people in the community who need assistance. We are all tied by our ethnic minority identities, and we should help each other.

Ocie Miles, Student at Prairie View A&M University
Students from Prairie View A&M University, Ocie Miles and Tiona Brousard, assist with carrying groceries for the distribution. Photo/Jean Hsu

“I am very happy to help and learn from volunteering. Through our efforts to help residents in the community, I get to know my community better. I hope that I will have the opportunity to cooperate with Tzu Chi to serve the community again in the future,” said a student named Tiona Brousard. To this, another student, Jerome Davis, added that “At this special moment, it is very important for everyone in the community to come out and work together to help those in need.”

Hali Shofner, who majored in community development, mentioned that she learned about today’s event from Professor Thomas and immediately signed up for it. “I think this activity is very important because ethnic minorities are suffering from the pandemic. It is very important to provide residents with healthy and nutritious food during this tough time,” said Shofner.

Volunteers prepare delicious and nutritious vegetarian lunches for everyone who came to volunteer. Photo/Jean Hsu

Tzu Chi volunteers from our Southern Region have provided relief with love for 30 years and counting, and with the selfless support of our neighbors, we can expand the scope of our care.

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