Steadfast in Houston: Providing Free Food for Those in Need

Southern  | September 29, 2020
On August 15, 2020, Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region volunteers in Houston hold their third food distribution. Photo: Jean Hsu.

Written by Penny Liu
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

On August 15, 2020, Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region chapter held a food distribution, in partnership with Houston Food Bank (HFB, for the third time in two months. Southwest Management District, established by the Texas Legislature, provided security officers to direct traffic and maintain peace.

Volunteers started to arrive before 8:30 AM to set up for the distribution, scheduled to begin at 11 AM. The HFB truck arrived around 10:00 AM and delivered over 14,000 pounds of produce that included cucumbers, eggplants, squashes, carrots, pears, cantaloupes, and milk.

Many care recipients pick up food at Tzu Chi USA Southern Region’s distribution by car. Photo: Jong Wu.
Volunteers unload boxes of produce from a Houston Food Bank truck when it arrives. Photo: Jong Wu.

In addition, Tzu Chi purchased bread and potatoes to supplement the items HFB was providing.

Roger Lin purchases bread the day before the distribution to supplement the produce provided by Houston Food Bank. Photo: Roger Lin.

A few days before, volunteers had also prepared 400 care packages of Jing Si Rice and Jing Si Noodles for the distribution in the hope of giving families in need sufficient food of balanced nutritional value.

Volunteers prepare packages of Jing Si Instant Rice and Instant Noodles from Taiwan a few days before the food distribution. Photo: Jojo Lin.

Perseverance Paves the Way on this Mission of Care

When Roger Lin, the event coordinator, had gone to purchase bread for the distribution beforehand, he purposefully bought ten more loaves. He intended to give them to the homeless who live under the highway overpasses that he often passes on the way to Tzu Chi USA’s Southern Region office. 

However, on that particular day, as Roger was driving to the office to deliver the bread, he couldn’t see anyone under the bridge. This circumstance reminded him of Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s teachings, in that “Doing good deeds also requires good cause and condition. Not everyone has the opportunity to do good deeds. So, we must do what we can to help when we have the chance.”

One could also conclude that we should be steadfast and persevere when doing good deeds, regardless of the circumstances we may face. And, as it turns out, the conditions were difficult on August 15, the day of the grocery giveaway event, as the weather was scorching and humid.

With sweat rolling down their brow and shirts drenched wet, the volunteers carried boxes of groceries to the distribution station and packed portions per household into individual bags in advance of the event’s start.

Ignoring the humidity and heat on the day of the distribution, volunteers work hard and with joy. Photo: Jean Hsu.
Several young volunteers also participate in the food distribution. Photo: Jong Wu.

Motivated to Do Our Best to Help Those in Need

Despite the extreme heat, care recipients also began to arrive two hours early, their cars quickly wrapping around several blocks, as they waited patiently. Taking the weather into account, volunteers rushed to be ready and decided to start the distribution five minutes before the scheduled time of 11 AM.

Some care recipients arrive on foot to pick up food packages despite the scorching sun. Photo: Jong Wu.
Preschool teacher Sade Clark (first right) fills out the application form requested by Houston Food Bank. Photo: Jean Hsu.

The first in line was a lady whose husband is suffering due to cancer. A kindergarten teacher who currently can’t work also came by to pick up the free food. A mother with three young children had walked in the almost 100-degree heat to receive this assistance. Each care recipient had a story to share, describing the challenges they’re facing at this time, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing with no end on the horizon.

The volunteers serving at the distribution were saddened as they learned of all the ways people are suffering due to the economic impact of the pandemic or other life-changing situations. And yet, this only strengthened their resolve, deepening their motivation to do their best to help those in need.

Volunteers pass out application forms to care recipients waiting in line inside their cars. Photo: Jean Hsu.

This food distribution event benefited 381 families, with 45 volunteers participating. You can join Tzu Chi’s missions of care by adding your love. Please support our Together While Apart campaign to help those in need and suffering during the pandemic.

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