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Cooking for the Community
How a Former Shelter Client Contributes to The Salvation Army's Soup Kitchen
by Eloise Montemayor - Grants Administrator/Public Relations
published July 2016

When Rosa De La Mora enrolled in The Salvation Army's Shelter Program in June of 2005, she never imagined she would become the Soup Kitchen's head cook and supervisor two years later. "The shelter, dining hall and banquet hall were full of people because of severe weather," De La Mora said as she recollected her first experience at The Salvation Army's shelter. She stayed through the stormy days and found herself volunteering in almost every department at The Salvation Army (TSA) to keep herself busy. When the weather was better, she walked everywhere she could to drop off job applications. Then, she started selling newspapers to save money for local bus tickets so she could go farther into town to submit applications. "I was never one to pass time at the park," De La Mora said. "I was always looking for work, and when I wasn't looking for work, I was volunteering my time at The Salvation Army."

When she found out that TSA had a cook position available, she applied and was hired soon after. She stayed at the shelter for three months and moved into an apartment with her two daughters after she saved enough money. De La Mora kept her part-time position for a year before becoming a full-time employee. Then, with the help of TSA advisory board member Joe De Marino, De La Mora enrolled in a six-month culinary arts program at South Texas Community College. Upon completion, she earned her certificate and eventually became head cook and supervisor of TSA's Soup Kitchen. "I have always given all I can through my work here at The Salvation Army," said De La Mora. "Til this day my daughters have also been very active in Salvation Army activities and programs."

For the past 11 years, De La Mora, along with her staff, has helped prepare thousands of meals for the hungry and homeless. In 2015 alone, the kitchen served over 75,055 meals for shelter clients and the community. Holidays are no exception to normal kitchen operation hours either. Every Thanksgiving Day, De La Mora opens the kitchen at 4:00AM. Assistance from volunteers helps to make it possible to cook and serve over 1,300 Thanksgiving Day lunches. Every Wednesday, the kitchen also prepares dinner, apart from community dinner, for about 60 children who participate in TSA's Youth Character Building Program. During emergency situations, the kitchen also whips up hot meals for first responders and for those affected by disaster. Recently, the Soup Kitchen and volunteers prepared and distributed 3,200 meals to the City of Mission's residents and first responders after severe storms damaged many homes and left families without electricity.

Furthermore, De La Mora and her kitchen staff have prepared within the last two years more than 77,973 bowls of chicken soup for refugees who stop at Sacred Heart's parish hall in McAllen, TX. Finally, De La Mora also caters to various civic groups who rent TSA's banquet hall during the week and pay $10 per plate to benefit Salvation Army programs and services.

"God gives me strength," said De La Mora when asked how she manages the kitchen. "Volunteers and donations have all been instrumental in making our feeding program possible, as well." The Salvation Army receives food donations from community partners such as Which Wich and H-E-B. Through a Harvest Program, the kitchen also receives food donations from Olive Garden, Starbucks and Chipotle. In addition, funding from United Way and Urban County has also made it possible to feed the homeless and hungry. Businesses and organizations like Fed Ex Ground, 1st Patriot Insurance and various Girls Scout troops have also sponsored food and provided volunteers to serve it at the kitchen, as well.

We invite you to partner with us in helping others. For more information about our programs and/or partnership opportunities, please call us at 956.682.1468.

We are located at 1600 N. 23rd St. in McAllen, TX 78501. To give a monetary donation, you may send a check payable to The Salvation Army to the following address:
PO Box 4766, McAllen, TX 78502.

Thank you!