CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — UPDATE (4:06 p.m. Wednesday): The Texas Veterans Commission's Jim Halbrook said Wednesday that state agencies applying for Fund for Veterans' Assistance grants must meet a certain number of veterans in need to receive funding.
Nueces County Veterans Services Office (VSO) missed its target of veterans for this year.
However, the Nueces County VSO did apply for another grant and is awaiting approval sometime in May.
Every day, a local food pantry that assists low-income and homeless veterans and their families barely manages to keep its shelves stocked. Every day, it's a struggle
"We've had veterans who have lost their jobs reach out to us and say 'I need food. I need to feed my family. Can you help us out?' " said Nueces County Director of Veterans Services J J De La Cerda.
But as a county employee, De La Cerda cannot ask for donations to the food pantry.
"We're only as good as our most vulnerable veterans and we've got to work together to stay together and so that's what we are trying to do now," said De La Cerda.
What's worse: He said his office was denied a $150,000 grant it usually counts on from the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC). That grant helps fill the pantry.
For now, the daily challenge to ensure veterans and their families are fed is real, and donations are needed.
Enter Kristy Jackson; real-estate agent by day, and veterans advocate 24/7. She also happens to be a Navy veteran.
"Probably, everything I do is very personal to me," Jackson admits. "I want to just do whatever I can to make sure that I make a difference, and maybe I'll change one person's day."
Jackson just launched a three-week food drive to help fill the pantry called Spring Into Action. She spent the last few days wrapping donation boxes with patriotic red-, white- and blue-colored paper and bows.
Food drives such as Jackson's are critical to help feed veterans like such as Van-Zeller Johnson.
"It's a blessing," said Johnson during a recent visit to the county veterans office. "This helps me be self-sufficient."
If you are interested in donating to the Spring Into Action drive, you can drop off non-perishable items and hygiene items at donation boxes at these locations around the city:
- Fleet Reserve Association, 1651 Flour Bluff Dr.
- Green Waves, 13921 SPID
- Revolutionary Insurance, 615 N. Broadway #2020
- Santa Fe Chiropractic, 4825 Everhart Rd.
- Stephanie Waterman Farmers Insurance, 5656 S. Staples #200
Here is a list of items most in need for veterans and their families:
- Cereal bars
- Fruit cups
- Bottled water
- Drink boxes
- Peanut butter crackers
- Canned meat (tuna, ham, sausage), vegetables, beans, pasta)
- Shampoo/conditioner/soap (ALL in one)
- Shaving cream
- Disposable razors
The Spring Into Action drive runs through May 9.