By Steve Lestarjette
In a very real sense, Kyle Redford is carrying on the family business.
Both mother Gayle and father Rodney are long-time fixtures at North Channel Assistance Ministries, a local food pantry serving residents on Houston’s east side. Kyle, 29, came as soon as he could.
He serves as the non-profit ministry’s primary “muscle” for food pick up, delivery, storage and inventory. Working together, the family has helped the food pantry expand its services from 1,200 families a year to more then 15,000, and its food supplies to more than 2 million pounds annually.
Kyle uses the ministry’s truck to pick up food from the Houston Food Bank, then makes rounds at dozens of retail outlets and grocery stores in the area. He picks up food products nearing the end of their shelf life, clothes, toys and household items that are “gently” flawed, too.
Consequently, struggling families visiting the food pantry in Channelview find a wide assortment of meat and produce, canned fruits and vegetables to help them through a rough time, as well as household items and bicycles that help improve their outlook and chances of landing a job.
“To people who walk everywhere, a bicycle is as valuable as a car,” Gayle says.
From 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday (many weekends, too), the Redford family helps connect people with desperate needs to life’s basic essentials. Rodney, director, a successful entrepreneur, handles the business side. Gayle, assistant director, does the paperwork and takes clients “shopping” among the shelves of the 2400-sq. ft. facility. Kyle makes certain the shelves are always filled.
According to Gayle, the North Channel Assistance Ministries has been serving the east side since 1985, thanks to an organization created by local churches and ministers. Its ministry stretches from the Interstate 610 bridge over the Houston Ship Channel to the San Jacinto River bridge, from Summerwood to Galena Park. Gail was a volunteer from the start.
“Back then, we were only able to give the basic food staples,” Gayle says. “Tuna was our meat; macaroni and cheese our other big item.”
Today, hard work puts so much more on the “menu.”
“Better food changes lives,” Gayle has learned. “If a person can go from eating tuna and macaroni and cheese to something really good and nutritious, it makes a difference in how they perform throughout the day. If a person begins the day with bacon and eggs for breakfast rather than nothing at all, it provides a lift for the entire day.”
Rodney agrees. “Food not only supplies a hunger need; it relates to every part of a person’s life,” he explains. “If a mom and dad don’t have enough money for food, they will let a child eat and go hungry themselves. Or they will pick medicine over food, which has other consequences.”
Families can come once a month and walk out with enough to last until their next visit. Most take home a large box or two of groceries.
“They get to pick what they want off the shelves,” Gayle notes. “No two people are alike.”
The location on Bonham Street places it in a high crime area, but the ministry remains relatively safe. Its compassion is so well known that even the area’s toughest characters help protect it.
The future of the ministry appears solid.
“This is my life,” Kyle is quick to say. “Every day, we give away food, Bibles, clothing, and we can’t keep enough.
“This is where I belong. As long as I’m here helping others, I’ll be all right.”