Ballinger Cares finds new home for community pantry

BALLINGER – An idea that began more than 25 years ago lives on through Ballinger Cares, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping those in need with food, clothing and household items.

Ballinger Cares has a new home in the former National Guard Armory at 402 Crosson Avenue – aptly named the Hugh Wade Center.

Better known as Father Wade, it was Ballinger’s longtime pastor’s idea to start a pantry after he arrived at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church in 1996.

The program was run by the Ballinger Ministerial Alliance and the pantry was staffed by volunteers of all faiths.

“We had no way of getting food to the people who needed it, so it all started with him,” said Peggy Freeman, one of the volunteers who worked at the ranger station. eating community until it closed in September 2020 after 22 years when the owner decided to sell the building.

Wade died the following month at the age of 74.

“A group of us got together and decided (the pantry) was too important for the community,” Freeman said. “Those of us who worked there knew how many people came for clothes and food.”

After the food pantry closed, the Ballinger Ministerial Alliance continued to distribute food from the Senior Citizen Center with the monthly shipments it received from the Food Bank of West Central Texas in Abilene.

In May 2021, Ballinger Cares opened a resale center in an 800 square foot space owned by Runnels County to begin offering apparel again.

A grant from the San Angelo Health Foundation recently allowed Ballinger Cares to purchase the arsenal, giving them the room they needed to put it all together.

Ballinger Cares has a bridal room with new dresses at the Hugh Wade Center, 402 Crosson Ave.

“All the shirts in there are $1, and kids’ items are 50 cents. A few really nice things are marked up as formal wear, things like that. But those are good prices. And when someone has needed anything, he didn’t pay anything,” Freeman said.

“Food is free for those who qualify, but anyone with urgent needs will be helped when they need it.”

Ballinger Cares also offers furniture, miscellaneous household items, and even a bridal room with new dresses as well as women’s evening wear.

The Armory gave Ballinger Cares so much room that it was able to accommodate other community organizations in the building, such as Meals on Wheels, Cornerstone Community Action Agency, and the Health and Wellness Coalition of Runnels County.

Freeman said Ballinger Cares needed more volunteers since its recent expansion. For more information on volunteering or donating, call the Hugh Wade Center at 325-365-4300 or Board Chair Carla Campbell at 325-365-6049.

Ballinger Cares is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Tuesday hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Norma P. Rex