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20120302_RGV-FOOD-BANKFood bank opens new facility

PHARR — Standing in the loading area of the historic Valley Fruit Company facility on Cage Boulevard, Teri Drefke said she’s sometimes still in awe of the building’s construction.

“They don’t build anything like this anymore,” she said.

Drefke, the executive director of the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley said when searching for a new site to house the organization’s growing demands the vacant building was the perfect fit.

“It fit all our needs,” she explained.

On Wednesday, after nearly seven years of planning and renovating, the food bank introduced the public and its volunteers to its new home, complete with twice the size of their McAllen space and classrooms to serve the community.

“We are able to serve the community in a much better way,” she said.

The facility, with over 100,000 square feet also gives the food bank seven loading docks, meaning the ability to store more food easily. The RGV Food Bank serves residents in Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties. In 2010, officials said they distributed 31 million pounds of food.

For the community they serve, Drefke predicted they would be excited to see the facility expand and offer a variety of new programs.

As community members and local and state officials toured the facility at a grand opening this week, Drefke said the building was a vision come true.

At their grand opening, the food bank thanked its supporters and volunteers for their work and assistance in moving into their new home.

“It’s a historic day,” said Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia.

As the Rio Grande Valley is home to one of the largest indigent population, the local food bank is key to feeding people.

“Facilities like this are very badly needed,” he said.

Pharr Mayor Leopoldo Palacios asked local businesses and supporters to donate to the food bank to fill the many shelves they’ve just acquired.

“This is about the people of the Rio Grande Valley,” he said.

State Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., who worked with the organization on earning a national historic designation, presented the group with a Texas flag.

The community’s dedication and ability to move into a bigger facility to accommodate to the area’s growing needs shows the Valley is devoted to its needy residents, said Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

“The dedication of the RGV Food Bank says you care about the future of this great state and you want all residents to have part in the brightest future,” Staples said.

To support the future, the renovated building includes six interconnected buildings on 14 acres. The building has a German design that includes a lamella roof structure used in wide-spanned buildings like airplane hangars, which Drefke said was her favorite feature of the building. As a nationally recognized historic building, the facility features restored art deco signage from the Valley Fruit Company.

“It was a dream to begin with,” Drefke said of purchasing the building. “The journey to the dream was long and arduous, but it has more than met our expectations.”

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