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Patriotic Article
Noble Efforts
By Thomas D. Segel

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Harlingen, Texas, December 5, 2009 -  Many of us are reluctant to attempt solving complex matters because we feel that the efforts of one person can't add up to much improvement.  Dean HallHad that been Dean Hall's attitude, Loaves and Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley would still be an organization struggling to feed a few hundred homeless people.  Instead, because of his vision and leadership this feeding program established by the local Ministerial Alliance is now an extremely effective nationally recognized non-profit corporation.  It is also a state-of-the art social services organization that provides one-stop services to those people who find themselves in need of a helping hand.
Hall, who took over the leadership of Loaves and Fishes five years ago, is stepping down as the organization's Executive Director this month.  He will leave behind a one square block structure that contains sleeping accommodations for men, women and children.  It provides a feeding program seven days a week, job training, GED study development, a Training Center that offers lesions in Microsoft programs, family budgeting, and homebuyer training.  The L&F organization provides a job placement service and a 12-step program for those in need of such assistance.  There is a food pantry that each month gives food by the bag to families with empty refrigerators and L&F has recently entered into a new program to provide weatherization assistance to those people who need their homes reinforced against winter cold and rain.  It is the headquarters for the administrative offices of The Family Crisis Center, which assures the safety and protection of abused individuals. The heart of the operation is still to provide food and shelter for those in need. 
When Dean Hall assumed the position of Executive Director in March of 2005 the kitchen was serving 69,160 meals a year to the homeless and poor.  Under Hall's direction that figure has reached six digits.  Today an estimated 112,000 meals are being offered annually.  In 2005 just over 6200 bed nights of shelter were being provided to the homeless.  Today that number has grown to 10, 600 bed nights being offered during the year to those who have no other place to sleep.
Homeless prevention has become a very important program at Loaves and Fishes.  The Vera Naumann Family Assistance organization is under the L&F umbrella and it has grown from providing rent assistance to 15 families in 2005 to assisting 100 families today.  Utility assistance has grown slightly over the past five years.  153 families were helped in 2005 and this year 170 families received assistance.
There has been an explosion of need seen at the food pantry.  Five years ago 63 bags of food were given to those needing additional help with their groceries. This year 4,075 food bags have been given out to those seeking a helping hand.
In recent months homeless prevention services have emerged as a very important service.  For the first time, Loaves and Fishes has weatherized the houses of 160 homeowners and repaired another 60 homes to make all of them more habitable throughout the winter.
Dean Hall came to Loaves and Fishes with no experience in operating a non-profit organization.  He was familiar with its work, having served on the Board of Directors for three years, but all of his experience had been in the business community.  He relocated to Harlingen, Texas in 1998 to assume the position of General Manager to a plastics plant.  Upon his retirement from that office he was asked to become the Loaves and Fishes Executive Director.
One of his first acts was to start providing meals to the residents of the Family Crisis Center.  Next he moved the Board into taking over a homeless shelter operation of a faltering ministry.  In 2006 Hall led the L&F non-profit into accepting the management of the Vera Naumann Family Emergency Assistance service and he started raising money to move all the services to a single location. 
In 2007 he had everything in place.  Renovation and construction was stated on a block square facility in Harlingen.  By year's end that construction had been completed.  The next year Hall arranged to provide meals to the La Posada Providencia Shelter in the neighboring city of San Benito.  Loaves and Fishes took over the operation of the First Baptist Church Food Pantry and incorporated it into the services of the organization.  The non-profit also started working with Rio Grande Valley church groups and the Meadows Foundation to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Dolly.
 In his final year as Executive Director, Hall arranged to partner with American Electric Power (AEP) to start a home weatherization program in the Rio Grande Valley.  This area of South Texas, in addition to being seriously damaged by Hurricane Dolly, is one of the most economically depressed regions of the country.
Hall also launched a homeless prevention and rapid re-housing program to try slowing the rate of homelessness in the area with temporary assistance in utility payments and rents.
It should also be noted that Loaves and Fishes operated on an annual budget of $334,479 when Hall became its CEO. Funding for the various programs comes from individual gifts, church donations and grants.  Today that budget is $1,482,039 and L&F   will end the year with a surplus.
The one theme Dean Hall has tried to imprint into all of the Loaves and Fishes services is to offer a hand up and not a handout.  Wherever possible he has built work and self-advancement into everything offered by this Faith based organization.
Many are asking what Dean Hall will do with himself now that he is facing retirement for the second time.  They seem to forget he is always a busy man.  Hewill take over the reins as President of the more than 100 member Harlingen Rotary Club next year...and he is already serving as the Mayor of the town of Palm Valley.

By Thomas D. Segel

Copyright 2009

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