Texas County Food Pantry executive director Katie Mutzebaugh stands in the clothing section inside the pantry's thrift store. During a renovation project that will begin soon and be carried out in phases during 2019, clothing will be moved to the front of the store and a fitting room will be added.

Patrons of the Texas County Food Pantry and other local citizens will soon notice some big changes inside and outside the facility in Houston due to a significant remodeling project.

“The idea is for it to be more user-friendly and functional for our clients and customers,” said TCFP executive director Katie Mutzebaugh. “The board’s overall goal is that just because this is a food pantry doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the best set-up we can for our clients. We’ve sort of dedicated 2019 to changes.”

Mutzebaugh said funding from an “anonymous donation” has led to the planned remodel, and that the pantry’s nine-member volunteer board of directors has already approved several aspects.

•The food pantry’s entry and exit door will open and close automatically.

“We really want to make it easier for our elderly and disabled to get through that door,” Mutzebaugh said. “It kind of breaks your heart sometimes to watch them try to get a cart through it.”

Food pantry door

The entry and exit to the Texas County Food Pantry will soon be outfitted with a door that opens and closes automatically.

Mutzebaugh said bids for the door upgrade would be considered immediately. She said an awning would eventually be added to provide cover on the outside.

•A major makeover of the thrift store.

Mutzebaugh said the popular store will be rearranged so clothing is up front and other items in back.

“Our thrift store is backward,” she said. “Just like with any other thrift store, clothing is our No. 1 seller – and we have it in the back of the building. If you go into any other thrift store similar to ours, the clothing is up front.”

A fitting room will also be added that will be big enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

“People have often asked for it, and we’re going to do it,” Mutzebaugh said. “We’ll be getting started on that this month. The thrift store will look totally different when we’re done.”

•The grounds in front of the TCFP building (on Highway 17 just east of U.S. 63) will feature an attractive seating area.

“I’m trying to make it more of a community space,” Mutzebaugh said. “People who are waiting will be able to sit outside and enjoy the sun, read a book or eat lunch, and our volunteers will have a nice place to go sit.”

Food pantry front

The grounds in front of the Texas County Food Pantry will soon feature seating for use by the public and volunteers.

Another already-complete move is the replacing of very old chairs in the food pantry waiting area. Soon, an old water fountain in the food area will be removed, and the food loading stations will be enlarged.

“Think Aldi,” Mutzebaugh said. “It will be a lot like that.”

Another project Mutzebaugh said will be carried out, but hasn’t yet been finalized, is the separation the food pantry and thrift store.

{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”<p>"The board’s overall goal is that just because this is a food pantry doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the best set-up we can for our clients."</p> <p><strong>TCFP DIRECTOR KATIE MUTZEBAUGH</strong></p>” id=”f4f20c5f-fdd4-4f0d-8f60-21e54df2c790″ style-type=”quote” title=”Katie quote” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

“Whether it’s partially or totally separated is still up in the air,” she said. “My goal is create a sense of normalcy for our clients. I want them to feel like they’re going into any other grocery store and not feel like ‘this is the free side where I get my food and this is the purchase side.’

“I don’t ever want anyone to feel ashamed for coming here and I want them to feel secure in themselves. We’ve all had troubles – I’ve had troubles – and everyone needs assistance once in a while.”

Mutzebaugh said she doesn’t anticipate much inconvenience while various projects are being worked on, but brief closures might be necessary.

“We might have to close the thrift store for a while, and it’s possible that the food pantry side might close for a short time while the wall is being built,” she said. “But I would much rather have it stay open so people can still get the food they need.”

Mutzebaugh also said a rumor going around that the thrift store is closing is simply untrue.

“It started when someone heard us talking about the upcoming changes,” she said. “But we’re not closing it, and I’m really excited about these changes being made.”

THE STATE OF THE FOOD PANTRY

Mutzebaugh is the fifth director in the history of the Texas County Food Pantry, and took the position in July 2017. She said the pantry’s clientele base shrank a bit in 2018, but is still higher than the norm.

“We have more clients than most of the counties that surround us,” Mutzebaugh said.

For that reason, Springfield-based Ozark Food Harvest has committed to increasing the amount of food provided to the TCFP, Mutzebaugh said.

“They’re going to try sending a third truck each month,” she said. “They recognize that our food intake is less than our client intake compared to other counties.”

Mutzebaugh said the amount of people seeking financial assistance (like paying for rent or utilities) was also down a bit last year, but spending in that area was up.

“I don’t know if you want to attribute that to inflation or higher rent, but the amount we spent was more, even though it was spent on fewer people,” she said.

Mutzebaugh said that she and her cohorts sometimes get to witness heart-warming success stories.

{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”<p>For more information about the Texas County Food Pantry, call 417-967-4484 or email <a href="mailto:tcfpdirector@centurytel.net">tcfpdirector@centurytel.net</a>. The organization can be found online at <a href="http://www.texascountyfoodpantry.org">www.texascountyfoodpantry.org</a>.</p> <p>The TCFP office is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The food pantry is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The thrift store is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.</p>” id=”864e26eb-7fab-485b-95b1-168acd2f8b14″ style-type=”bio” title=”TCFP INFORMATION” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

“We helped somebody who didn’t have a job at the time,” she said, “and that person went on to start their own business and even ended up hiring another person who came here for assistance.”

The specific changes upcoming at the TCFP have been being considered by Mutzebaugh since she joined the organization, and they all stem from a strictly objective viewpoint.

“My college minor was in anthropology, which is literally about the ability not to put yourself in someone else’s shoes but to look from the outside so you can see from a distance,” she said. “A lot of these changes are inspired by that.”

The TCFP hired a new bookkeeper who started in October: Lacie Hammond. Mutzebaugh said the TCFP currently has seven employees and 25 volunteers, along with two regular workers who are paid by an outside organization.

“Everyone here is excited about changes and we seem to be in a period of lots of change,” Mutzebaugh said. “In this business, you never want your numbers to go up, but you want to make sure you’re helping everybody. You don’t get these jobs for the recognition; you hope one day your job will no longer be needed, but secretly you know it will.”

“The board’s overall goal is that just because this is a food pantry doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the best set-up we can for our clients.”

TCFP DIRECTOR KATIE MUTZEBAUGH

For more information about the Texas County Food Pantry, call 417-967-4484 or email tcfpdirector@centurytel.net. The organization can be found online at www.texascountyfoodpantry.org.

The TCFP office is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The food pantry is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The thrift store is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

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