PHARR — The Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley will begin accepting volunteers here on Thursday to assist with their everyday operations.

“We’ve been blessed by the support of the National Guard, and we’re coming towards the end of that support,” Stuart Haniff, chief executive officer of the food bank said. “What we’re trying to do now is supplement that gap as they transition out by bringing back volunteers in a limited way.”

The Texas Army National Guard began assisting the food bank in April at a time when volunteers from the general public had been reduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demand for food had increased by about 143% at the time, and nearly 30 guardsmen were deployed to assist with the demand.

Haniff said that the food bank is still waiting to learn when the National Guard will be demobilized. Their initial stay was to have ended in May, but they have received numerous extensions allowing them to stay and assist for nearly two extra months.

With the exit of the guardsmen seemingly eminent, the food bank is again allowing volunteers to assist with preparing bags and distributions.

“Safety is always at the forefront of everything we do. That’s why we closed our opportunities to volunteers and to the public,” Haniff said. “We’re going to balance safety with the need to fulfill our mission. We’re going to bring back volunteers under very strict circumstances.”

Those strict circumstances include temperature checks for all staff, mandatory face coverings, social distancing as well as safety hygiene.

The food bank will also have two decontamination stations that staff members must go through before starting their shifts.

The volunteer shifts will be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. There will also be a volunteer shift on Wednesday for the drive-through emergency pantry from 7 to 10 a.m.

Each shift will be limited to 10 volunteers per shift.

“They’ll register online so there is limited contact; no walk-ins,” Haniff said.

Volunteers must be over the age of 18 and must be able to lift 30 pounds. Volunteers must also provide their own face covering.

“We really want to promote the need for safety and trying to fulfill our mission,” Haniff said. “Safety guides everything we do.”

For the link to register, visit here. Anyone with questions can contact Olivia Lemus by calling (956) 904-4535 or sending an email to [email protected]