River City Community Outreach offers food, faith to Northeast Side residents

SELMA, Texas – When the gates at River City Community Church in Selma open at 6 a.m. on Wednesdays, there are already 20 to 30 cars waiting to get in.

By 9 a.m., the string of cars is miles-long on Lookout Road, winding through the former Verizon Wireless Amphitheater parking lot and former Retama Polo Field Grounds.

Sean Azzaro, senior pastor of the church and CEO of River City Community Outreach, is often there, greeting hundreds of families who getting their vehicles filled with groceries, produce and other supplies.

Azzaro said it’s the largest food distribution event since the pandemic.

“Covid changed the game because all of a sudden we went from feeding 50, 60 people a month to thousands. Just because of the need. You know, the government checks that people got helped, but they couldn’t begin to close the gap,” he said.

River City in 2020 was serving 600 families twice a week. After the lockdowns when everything reopened, those numbers dwindled for a few months. But that has changed, said Operations Director Willie Mayfield.

“Levels are back up to Covid levels. As inflation has increased, so have the number of cars,” he said.

The San Antonio Food Bank is a major player in making a large food distribution happen, but so is H-E-B and the infrastructure of the church. Few businesses or entities have this kind of working operation.

“Luckily, we had the walk-in cooler and freezer that we have, which gave us the ability to kind of expand where others maybe couldn’t. And it just blew up,” said River City Community Outreach Executive Director Mike McGuire.

Azzaro adds, “Because of the Food Bank, because of our relationship with them, because of our coolers that we have, we’re able to get a lot. “

Storing and preparing what goes into the boxes is the work of an army of volunteers. In fact, there’s only one food distribution employee and she’s a part-timer. The rest of the team are members of the congregation, retired veterans, volunteers from other companies and nonprofits, but also individuals who were once in line receiving food.

There’s compassion at work here, from the greeters to the send-offs. For some people getting food, this might be the only interaction these folks see all week.

“When you are hurting financially and you’re alone, that’s when things get really bad. And so, to have somebody who’s reaching out and you can grab a hand and then help lift everybody up, who needs help,” McGuire said.

On average, $200,000 of food is distributed each month, amounting to 7,000 pounds of food.

If you would like to volunteer, call 210-920-8051 or click here.

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