Texas County Community Organizations Active in Disaster will hold a Feb. 26 meeting in Houston, said Bennie Cook, chair

Houston resident Bennie Cook has been selected as the new executive director at the Texas County Food Pantry.

Food Pantry board president Bob Joens said Cook, who will turn 33 on March 15, was chosen from a field of more than 20 applicants that had been narrowed down to three finalists by a nominating committee. After the nominating committee tabbed Cook, the Pantry’s board of directors approved his nomination.

Cook has had two stints as a deputy with the Texas County Sheriff’s Department, serving from January 2005 to September 2007 and again from May of last year until the present. In between, he was an officer with the Columbia Police Department from September 2007 to May 2011.

A graduate of Belle High School in 1997, Cook earned a degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia College last May. He and his wife Amanda have four children.

Cook believes he is well suited for his new job, and that it fits both his personality and personal situation.

“I’ve always been interested in community service, and I’ve been doing that with different organizations since I was 18,” he said. “I’ve been working nights for a long time now, and this job will primarily be during daytime hours. With our kids involved in events after school and on weekends, this seemed like a pretty good opportunity.”

Among Cook’s plans for his new role is to be a familiar face in the community and be involved in community events and programs. He expects to begin that process immediately.

“I want to meet with folks around the community – like the ministerial alliance and other organizations – just to let them know who I am,” Cook said.

Another thing Cook plans to do early on is utilize his familiarity and prowess with social media and online communication.

“I’m big with technology,” he said. “I think developing a web site will help promote the Food Pantry more, and almost everybody has Facebook nowadays, so I want to get a Facebook page going, too.

“We can do things like post services we offer and items available in the thrift store, so people can see what we have here. A lot of people don’t know about all the services that are available here.”

“I think he’ll bring us more into the 21st century,” Joens said.

The Food Pantry’s new leader said he welcomes visitors who want to talk about Pantry business or anything else.

“In my opinion, you always need to have an open door policy,” Cook said. “I’ll be glad to talk with anyone who wants to stop by and talk. I don’t drink coffee, but I’ll have coffee here.”

Cook’s first day in his new job is Monday. He replaces Sister Clare Reinert, who stepped down last November after eight years in the position.

“The board is tickled to death to have a local person with ties to the community who is energetic, has good management skills, and should be a good public relations person for the Pantry,” Joens said. “This is an exciting time for the board.”

“It’s going to be a learning process,” Cook said, “but I’m going to get with the board of directors here and all the employees and volunteers and learn all I can from them about the things they do.

“But I love helping people and I’m very glad to have this opportunity, because this will give me the chance to help more people. This seems like the right job for me, and I’m looking forward to it.”

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