SIERRA VISTA — Every first and second Tuesday of the month, people start lining up bright and early at the Salvation Army Community Center of Sierra Vista for a food distribution program.

Teams of volunteers are on hand to help with the distribution, which runs from 8 to 10 a.m.

Designed to help individuals, families and seniors who fall within specific federal poverty guidelines, the local commodities distribution is overseen by the Community Food Bank of Arizona and organized by the Salvation Army, with assistance from community volunteers.

After recognizing a need to reach residents in the Hereford/Palominas area, the Salvation Army started assisting with a distribution out of Country Estates Southern Baptist Church the first Tuesday of the month from 8 to 10 a.m.

“Today, we gave out more than 300 food boxes in two hours between the two locations,” said Salvation Army Captain Carlos Souza. “This would not be possible without the amazing community volunteers who help our distribution run smoothly.”

Mary Mueller, who has been volunteering with the commodities distribution since December, also serves as a Salvation Army bell ringer during the holidays.

“I have also been helping with the Produce on Wheels Without Waste, (POWWOW), for about four years now,” she said. “I find it rewarding to help people in our community who need the food and subsidies that we provide. When I found out about the Salvation Army’s work, I wanted to help with that distribution program as well.”

Through her volunteerism, Mueller said she recognized there is a hidden poor in the community.

“You really see it when you’re out there helping with the bell ringing and food distributions,” she said.

Funding source

The commodities distribution program is made possible through federal USDA funds, in partnership with the Department of Economic Security and Feeding America, said Brandi Smith of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. Smith, who is the commodities distribution program manager for five counties, spoke of how the distribution numbers for seniors has increased since forming the partnership with the Salvation Army.

“In November, we distributed to about 125 clients in the senior program, and in July that number climbed to 200 seniors,” she said. “The senior program serves a very vulnerable population, so I’m glad more seniors are applying for assistance and receiving it.”

There is an application process for those who are experiencing an emergency food need, or find themselves needing emergency food assistance. In Sierra Vista, applications can be obtained at the Salvation Army, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Families and individuals who fall below the federal poverty guidelines can apply for assistance and receive food, Smith said.

“When you go to these distributions and see those who are there for assistance and you see how thankful they are, you realize how much need there is for so many people. Many have jobs, but just fall short. The food we provide helps them get through the month, and knowing that these programs are helping so many people is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.”

Souza agrees.

With future goals of expanding food distributions to other underserved areas, Souza said Salvation Army recently ordered a refrigerated truck to help make that a possibility.

“Thanks to the truck, we hope to bring produce and other perishable food items to other areas,” he said. “That’s down the road, though. For now, we’re very happy about the number of people we’ve been able to reach and are grateful to all our volunteers who make these programs possible.”

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