Director: Purpose, service the greatest blessings

Published on Thursday, 19 December 2013 22:43 - Written by By Dennis Cullinane Special to The Tyler Morning Telegraph

The holiday season is such a special time of year for families!

Each year the fall leaves bring a time of thanks and counting the blessings that we’ve received throughout the years.

As the days grow shorter, the season culminates in the rebirth of our spirit, a renewal of our faith, commitment to our family and community.

My life has been a miracle filled with so many blessings that it is too easy to overlook the simple gifts that I receive every day.

My greatest blessing has been the discovery of my purpose in life at an early age – feeding people. It’s what I love and what I’ve always wanted to do. From the beginning as a busboy through a successful career in contract food service, I’ve never lost my commitment to this purpose.

Something in us changes as we mature along life’s path. In passing the midpoint of my life, I felt strongly compelled to reaffirm my purpose, visualize my legacy and assess my contributions to society. Through spending time as a volunteer, I discovered a more fulfilling way to use my talent for feeding people.

Like most of us, I was unaware of the struggle that almost 1 in 5 Americans face every day in putting food on their tables. I didn’t see this need as it was not part of my world of abundance.

The experience of feeding those in need during Thanksgiving meals in Houston and feeling the impact of serving individual families in California were humbling to me.

I started to open my eyes to all that I’d overlooked before and wanted to help. I received an opportunity to redirect my career and was presented with the chance to return to Texas and follow that passion by leading the East Texas Food Bank.

I don’t believe in coincidences, and when the board of directors hired me, I knew it was a divine calling.

What an amazing organization!

This year marks the East Texas Food Bank’s 25th anniversary of excellence in being the conduit through which a very generous community expresses love, kindness and care for its food insecure neighbors.

From the seeds of our birth in the mid-1980s, the East Texas Food Bank was the vision of a generous group of community leaders in providing a regional food banking solution to support the food pantries, soup kitchens and other hunger-relief partners serving East Texans.

Over the past 25 years, we have grown to support 26 counties across a territory of nearly 20,000 square miles and have evolved near the top quartile of the over 200 Feeding America food banks in total food distribution

Sadly, the underlying reason for our growth has not been pleasant news.

In light of the economic recovery, the number of people in our communities that are reaching out to our partners for help in providing meals for their families has nearly doubled since 2006 and continues to rise.

The good news is that today the East Texas Food Bank is more capable than ever in meeting these needs.

I have been deeply touched and inspired by the selfless dedication of our donors, board and staff who have given over the lifetime of this organization.

During this season, I hope that you will join with me to celebrate our work, pray for our neighbors who are struggling to feed their families and bless those who have given compassionately to Fight Hunger and Feed Hope in East Texas.

Dennis Cullinane is executive director of the East Texas Food Bank.