VALLE, Ariz. — Waiting in the hot mid-morning sun for over an hour, a group of volunteers anxiously waits for a man on a forklift to unload several hundred pounds of food from the back of a truck and place it in a tidy line.
Because of construction, the truck is more than an hour late, and a long line has already formed at Valle’s Bedrock City.
On the last Thursday of the month, around 70 to 80 families come to get whatever supplies St. Mary’s Food Bank can spare. It’s the last day they’ll meet at that location.
Kathy Thompson, who has been volunteering at the location for about 13 years, said the property’s new ownership told them when Bedrock City was purchased that the food bank would be allowed to remain temporarily but would eventually have to find a new location. She said at the beginning of last week, they were told June 27 would be the final day.
“We’ve asked some of the other businesses here, but they don’t want us or they don’t have room,” she said. I’ll keep asking until we figure something out.”
Resident Terry Pearl wasn’t happy about the shortened timetable either. She said she had been using the food bank for about a year.
“They should’ve given a warning, more time,” she said.
According to Sue Schumann, who has been volunteering for about seven years, it’s a very organized process: Teri McGowan checks in the families, Randy Mendiola makes sure the line moves in an orderly fashion, and Schumann and her husband Ray, along with Thompson and Mike Hodges, make sure the families get their fair share of the goodies. Hodges, who spoke to Kathy about a year ago asking if she could use the help, even makes sure some elderly residents stay out of the sun, loading their supplies in their vehicles for them.
It’s something all the volunteers feel passionate about.
“We started as clients, needing the help,” she said of herself and her husband. “We don’t make this feel like a charity. These are our friends.”
Schumann said it’s important to keep the food bank distribution nearby in Valle, because driving about half an hour in either direction would be a hardship for so many of the families who depend on the extra nutrition it provides, like an assortment of fresh fruits and veggies that don’t always come with the government-issued box.
Later, Thompson, who was running out of options for a place to move to, called with good news.
“We secured a new spot, and the food bank is now going to be at the air museum,” she said.
The food bank will meet at Planes of Fame beginning July 17.