Texas County Food Pantry officials gather in front of the sign on the front of the facility in Houston. From left, board member Angel Wells, board treasurer Harold Bruening, board president Guy Ceplina, new director Tanya Pacheco, board member Omanez Fockler and outgoing director Bennie Cook. The four board members shown made up the hiring committee that chose Pacheco (the pantry's intake specialist for more than two years) to succeed Cook.

Beginning Monday, the Texas County Food Pantry will have a new executive director.

Taking over the position will be Houston resident Tanya Pacheco, 38, who for more than two years has been the pantry’s intake specialist. The position became open when current director Bennie Cook resigned to join Congressman Jason Smith’s staff and work out of an office in Rolla.

Pacheco was selected by a hiring committee consisting of food pantry board president Guy Ceplina, treasurer Harold Bruening and board members Omanez Fockler and Angel Wells.

Pacheco is the fifth director for the pantry, which formed in 1989.

“We wanted to promote from within,” Ceplina said. “Tanya has been doing a great job since she got here, and she was a natural choice. She knows about everything that goes on here, including the clientele and all the paperwork that has to be done.

“She’s ideal for this position.”

“The pantry is going to be in good hands with her,” Cook said. “She knows all the inner-workings of this place, and she has all the right tools to be really good at this job.”

Pacheco is a Mountain Grove High School graduate who earned an associate’s degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix. She lives in Houston with her husband, Mike, and the couple has three boys.

Prior to joining the food pantry in November 2013, Pacheco worked in the office at Faith Fellowship and as a teller and teller-trainer at Landmark Bank. She and Mike also spent eight years as youth pastors at the Bucyrus church.

“I feel like this will be a smooth transition for the pantry, since I’ve been a part of the process for the past two years,” Pacheco said. “I’ve learned a lot from Bennie in terms of getting out there and communicating with people. Also, I’ve worked in leadership positions before, so I understand what it’s like having people ‘under’ you, and even before I came here I spent a lot of time working with people. Ministry kind of affords you that opportunity.

“I believe I’m a people-person, and I want to communicate a lot with the clients and the community.”

Cook, who was the pantry’s director since March 2012, landed the position of congressional field representative with Smith’s office through a chain of events that began with a mutual friend. In his new role, he’ll handle questions and issues with Smith’s 8th District constituents.

Cook said he doesn’t have any specific political aspirations, but he ran for an office years ago in Maries County, and he might run again some day, somewhere.

“We’ll see,” he said. “But anything is possible – I wouldn’t rule it out. But by working for a Congressman, I’ll be able to find out if it’s something I’m interested in doing.”

Cook holds numerous volunteer positions in Houston and Texas County, including emergency management director for both, and 911 board member. He said he’ll be stepping down from them, but plans to continue helping until replacements are found.

“I’ve verbally resigned from all of them,” he said. “But I won’t leave the county or city short-handed.”

Last year, the food pantry spent close to a half-million dollars, much of which went toward assisting needy people not only in Texas County, but Wright County, Howell County and other area counties. Pacheco said about 80-percent of what the pantry does involves Texas County residents, but grant funding technically allows for a nine-county coverage area.

Pacheco she looks forward to guiding it during what will likely be a period when its client base continues significant growth, as has been the case over the past several years. She also said one of her goals is to see that client base reduced.

“I don’t want people to have to receive assistance,” she said. “We want to look at some education programs and find ways to better serve people so they can go from here to where we know they want to be. We want to use this for what it was meant for, to be an emergency assistance program, not a long-term hand out program.

“I think we’ve made huge progress in seeing things heading that direction, and I want to see more fruit from that. I want to see us be different from the norm among public service programs. In this business, you’re always going to be funneling people in, but I want us to be funneling people out, too.”

Pacheco said whatever the future brings, people can expect the Texas County Food Pantry to continue providing good –– and valuable –– service.

“I love working for the pantry,” she said. “I feel like this is a calling, and this is where God has put me and there’s a purpose for that. I’m not sure yet what it’s going to look like, but I feel like this is a natural step.”

Tanya Pacheco

Houston resident Tanya Pacheco, 38, will on Monday (Feb. 1) assume duties as new director of the Texas County Food Pantry.

“We wanted to promote from within. Tanya has been doing a great job since she got here, and she was a natural choice.”


Information about the Texas County Food Pantry can be found online at www.txfoodpantry.com or on the organization’s Facebook page. The facility’s phone number is 417-967-4484.

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