East Texans give aid to growing number in need

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, but will there be enough to go around? Several East Texas charities are finding themselves in uncharted territories, helping unprecedented numbers of people.

Jeroldean Hull filled her cart inside the PATH food pantry. Hull is just one of many.

"In our 25 years, we've never seen anything like this," said Christina Fulsom, executive director of People Attempting To Help (PATH).

Fulsom said 3,000 households come to PATH each month for emergency assistance.  She said that's a 30 percent increase over last year, the highest it has ever been.

"There are still people trying to find jobs," said Fulsom. "They're trying hard, but they just can't do it."

Rev. Tony Chung is president of the East Texas Rescue Mission of Tyler.  When the Mission opened its doors last year, it slept four men.

"Today, we have topped out at 97," said Chung.  He said the men who don't sleep in beds, sleep on mats on the floor.  But thanks to local churches and area camps, volunteers spent much of the day assembling dozens of bunk beds.

"The Bible says the poor will inhabit us always, not only spiritually, but physically," said Chung.

The Salvation Army expects to feed 1,500 people this Thanksgiving, 300 more than last year. 1,500 families are going on this year's angel tree--nearly double the amount last year.

"The need is being met with the blessings of the community," said Steve Houston, director of resident services.

In its 25 year history, the East Texas Food Bank never stored up 17 million pounds of food because there was no need.  The food bank provides food to more than 200 pantries across 26 East Texas counties.  The pantries are seeing about a third more families.

"I anticipate growth every year from now until we end hunger," said Jim Rice, interim director.

The demand is higher, and, thanks to the positive response from the community, so is the supply.

The East Texas Food Bank says there are more than a million people living in the 26 East Texas counties they cover.

400,000 of them are living at, or below the poverty level.

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