Food Pantry Volunteers Named Local Heroes

3/13/2014

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and ages, but have one thing in common: passion. Even with 10 children, 27 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and more on the way, Dorothy and Eugene Stoltz always make it a priority to find time to serve on the GO TEAM on behalf of Jacksonville First UMC’s Society of St. Stephen’s Food Pantry. “Someone once said, hey come help us in the food bank, and we’ve just been goin’ and goin’ ever since,” jokes Gene.I have a cup of coffee waiting for me when I get there on Thursdays, and that makes my day.”
 
In their mid ‘80s, the Stolzes recently won the Hero Award from the East Texas Food Bank, in honor of over a half-decade of faithful service to the hungry in the region.  Gene and Dorothy have worked consistently in the Jacksonville food bank and have often ridden a bus to work with the East Texas Food Bank, which operates in Tyler and covers a 23-county area in Northeast Texas. “We work with wonderful people and are able to help many wonderful people who have hit on hard times,” adds Gene. Clients often give him a big hug out of gratitude. “Places are laying off employees more lately and things get kind of rough,
so we try to give food to anyone who is hungry
and we invite them to church while we are at it!”
 
Jacksonville First UMC keeps the food related needs in the forefront of the members’ minds with frequent food drives known as “peanut butter Sundays” – or whatever food item is missing in the inventory.  Gene and Dorothy are excited to work with food banks near the tomato capital of the country because they are able to bless families with fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. “We have so many tomatoes around here, there’s even a community Tomato Fest event that involves a tomato fight downtown!”
 
Rev. Barbara Hugghins nominated the Stoltzes  for the HERO award for many reasons. “They have gone faithfully every month to pack beans and rice in Tyler and they presently work face-to-face with 40-50 families in Jacksonville,“ notes Barbara. “They exhibit a positive attitude and compassion as they serve in this ministry of feeding the needy. As long as we keep them supplied with hot coffee they work tirelessly checking details and delivering groceries.”
 
While they appreciate being named local heroes, Gene and Dorothy do not volunteer for the kudos, awards or recognition. “Our own congregation has given us a standing ovation, and that was pretty humbling,” he adds. “Brings tears to my eyes to think about it.”
 
Adds Gene, “I don’t know how folks make it without a church. If I don’t make it to my church every week I feel that something is missing the whole week. It’s getting harder and harder to get there at our age, but we plan to keep attending and volunteering at the church food bank because,” he jokes, “if we don’t keep going forward we are likely to fall backwards.” Spoken like a true leader!