County Commissioner Pct. 1 Martin Wardlaw said Monday he will stop the food distribution events in his precinct for two weeks, citing deep concerns for the safety of his workers and volunteers.
Wardlaw said he will temporarily pause food distribution until Aug. 10 over concerns about the increase in local cases of COVID-19.
“This thing has a lot of people scared. Everybody’s scared. It’s really hitting home. I’m trying to keep my crew and volunteers safe. I’m completely dedicated to them,” Wardlaw said.
Wardlaw was not present at the start of Monday’s food distribution event across Brodbent Avenue from the San Felipe Cemetery due to a medical appointment, but his concerns were echoed by his precinct foreman, Mario Cervantes.
“We’ve been doing this every Monday, but the commissioner said we’re going to hold off for about a week or two after today because of the COVID-19. It’s just acting up too much. He said for our protection, he wants to stop for awhile, so this will be the last one for awhile,” Cervantes said as he watched vehicles line up for Monday’s event.
Cervantes said each of Precinct 1’s food distribution events for the past few months has served about 400 county residents. Precinct 1 workers and volunteers distribute food at the site from 9 a.m. until about noon, Cervantes said.
The Precinct 1 foreman also concurred with county commissioners court members about other concerns raised regarding the food distribution sites.
Val Verde County Judge Lewis G. Owens Jr. said during the last two commissioners court meetings that there have been motor vehicle collisions at all three of the distribution sites and both he and the commissioners complained that many persons “made the rounds,” picking up food at all three distribution sites.
Owens and the commissioners also worried aloud that county residents who don’t need the food are coming to the distribution events, keeping food out of the mouths of those who need it most.
“I walked to Martin about it, and the people that really need it in our precinct are the homebound elderly that don’t have vehicles, don’t have a way to get here. Those are the ones that really need it,” Cervantes said.
He said there are about 45 elderly Precinct 1 residents to whom food is delivered.
“And when we go deliver the food, they’ll tell us about other elderly people that also need food, so every Monday that we go deliver food to the elderly, we add some more names to the list,” Cervantes said.
He said he would like to see the food distributed on a delivery basis to the elderly that he believes need it most.
He gestured up the hill at the long line of cars and trucks.
“These come every Monday, and from here they’ll take off to Precinct 2 and then Precinct 4. They’re taking advantage of it. You see the King Ranch trucks and Cadillacs. Do you think they need it?” he said.
Alicia Soto is one of about a dozen volunteers who helps with the food distribution in Precinct 1.
“I just decided there was a need for volunteers, and I wanted to help,” she said.
Soto and several other volunteers sort and bag food and set it aside for later delivery to the elderly homebound.
Soto said after the food is placed in bags, she has a list of all the homes to which it will be delivered, and she sets out on her rounds.
“The people are so grateful when we show up with the food. You don’t know how many blessings I get when I deliver,” Soto said with a laugh.
Soto said she has volunteered for a number of local causes and events since she retired from her career with the state attorney general’s office here.
“I’ve volunteered for the census, for elections, for the Red Cross and hospice, so I jump around,” she said.