The Texas County Food Pantry has a new executive director: Lifelong Houston resident Laura Crowley.
After working as the TCFP’s interim director for about a month, Crowley officially began her tenure in the position Dec. 17, and is the organization’s sixth director since it was formed in 1989. Prior to that, she was the Pantry’s intake specialist for close to four years after spending about five years working at Rees Propane.
A graduate of Houston High School, Crowley is married to Kevin Crowley, of Crowley’s HomeWorks (which has a location on U.S. 63 in Houston). Together they have nine grown children who are “out of the house.”
Despite the odds, Crowley shares the same entire name as the Texas County Clerk: Laura Jane Crowley. The county clerk is married to Kevin’s older brother, Bill (who owned Crowley’s HomeWorks before selling it to Kevin and retiring about two years ago).
“Yeah, no confusion whatsoever,” Crowley said. “At the bank, at the doctor – it’s been interesting. Kevin’s oldest brother, Sid, is single and we’ve told him that unless you get a Laura Jane, you’re out.”
Crowley said her primary focus early in her tenure will be reestablishing a positive relationship with county residents.
“We have some rebuilding to do,” she said. “That is my number one goal right now. Things have not been so great here, but we’re getting there.”
Crowley said she believes the current TCFP staff is up for the challenge.
“It’s the best staff we’ve had since I’ve been here,” she said. “We’ve had some difficulty in the past with not everybody being on the same page team-wise, but with the staff we have it can only make things better.”
Increasing donations and rebuilding the volunteer base are also on Crowley’s radar. She said she plans to implement an incentive program to encourage more volunteering by offering credit at the Food Pantry’s thrift store in exchange for volunteer hours.
“We’ve lost a lot of volunteers, and I need them back,” Crowley said. “We’re powered by volunteers here, and without them things just fall behind and fall apart. We appreciate our volunteers and I hope the store credit program becomes a blessing to them and gives back to them.”
Assisting the people of Texas County is something Crowley said she doesn’t take lightly.
“The Food Pantry is so important to the entire county,” she said. “Before I stated working here, I had no idea what was entailed in this place. Food is obviously our main thing, and we serve food to on average about 500 families a month. But we do so much more; we have people come in and say things like, ‘my child needs a coat’ or ‘I’m three months behind on my rent and I’m getting evicted and have nowhere to go.’
“So it goes from the very small things to much larger things. There is so much that goes on here.”
Crowley said 85-percent of funds raised by the TCFP stay in Texas County.
“If you take that away, I can’t imagine what that would look like for our community and our county,” she said.
Crowley was hired following the resignation of Katie Mutzebaugh. She said she turned down the promotion previously, but felt led to accept it this time.
“I liked what I do here,” Crowley said, “and I really didn’t have any interest in being a director. But the second time it became available, my husband said, ‘you need to pray about that.’ The way I look at it is, someone off the street might be able to come in here and do a better job of directing, but they’re not going to care about this place the way I already do. So that was my prayer, and here I am.
“I honestly believe God sent me here in the first place, and this is where I plan to be.”