College Station couple reflects on 17-year service with Brazos Valley Food Bank

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 11:19 AM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - In 2005, Lee and Joanie McCleskey wanted to find a way to help Louisiana residents who evacuated to Bryan-College Station during Hurricane Katrina. It wasn’t too long before they found a service opportunity with the Brazos Valley Food Bank. Their first duty was sorting clothes.

“It makes us very, very happy to serve others,” Joanie McCleskey said.

This felt natural as the two have a long history of service. Lee McCleskey is a retired air force colonel who served 30 years in the military.

As things settled, the couple moved to more permanent roles within the food bank. The two did retail pickups from grocery stores like H-E-B twice a week for 17 years. They mainly collected the stores’ bread and dessert donations.

“You pull up to the back of the HEB stores, and you go in and you get your carts that are loaded with lots of breads and goodies and you come out, you load it in whatever vehicle you have and then you take it straight to the warehouse,” Joanie McCleskey said.

The food bank’s executive director Theresa Mangapora said their service and consistency have meant a lot to her over the years. She said the couple has made more meals possible for families than they probably realize.

“They collected about 125,000 pounds of donations,” Mangapora said. “In the food banking world, we say a serving is 1.2 pounds, so that’s really about 105,000 servings.”

The McCleskeys have decided to step away from volunteering at the food bank to focus on their health. Mangapora said the two will be greatly missed. The mentor figures’ service and encouraging words will never be forgotten.

“They act like they’re grateful for having the opportunity to have done this with us when I see it the exact opposite that they were a huge benefit to the Brazos Valley Food Bank,” Mangapora said.

It’s bittersweet for the McCleskeys to step back but hope they can inspire others to find a cause they’re passionate about and serve.

“It’s so worthwhile, you get so much out of it,” Joanie McCleskey said. “It’s a gift back to you when you serve other people.”