WHAT ARE THE HUG AWARDS?
The Houston’s Unsung Greats Awards (HUG Awards) are sponsored by Attorney Stewart J. Guss to honor those local men and women who make a special contribution to the community of Houston.
Each month we award a prize of $100 and a Houston Hero t-shirt, and each year we give one of the local heroes $1000. These blog posts highlight the great work done the the charity workers who are among this year’s 6 contenders for the annual award.
THE CHARITY: HOUSTON FOOD BANK
Our third contender for the annual HUG Awards is the amazing Mr. Tom Ashworth from the Houston Food Bank. In 2016 the Houston Food Bank distributed 79,000,000 nutritious meals to hungry Texans – and they are looking to increase that number to 100,000,000 by 2018!
The Houston Food Bank (founded in 1982) is currently the largest Feeding America food bank in the U.S., in both the amount of food distributed to its partner agencies and in the size of its facility. Thanks to strong community support, the Food Bank uses only 5% of all resources for operation costs, which allows 95 cents of every dollar to feed hungry children, adults and seniors. The organization focuses on balanced diets, nutrition education, and social services provided through its programs, such as Backpack Buddy, Kids Cafe, and Social Services Outreach.
The Houston Food Bank has a distribution network of nearly 600 hunger relief charities in 18 southeast Texas counties. Named top charity in Texas by Charity Navigator for financial performance and accountability, the Food Bank provides 79 million nutritious meal annually to food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers and other agencies, feeding around 800,000 people every year.
Learn more about the crucial work of the Houston Food Bank in THIS VIDEO.
THE NOMINEE: MR. TOM ASHWORTH
2017 will be the 15th year that Mr. Tom Ashworth has been working with the Houston Food Bank. During those 15 years Mr. Tom (as he is known) has worked in virtually every part of the organization. Famous in the Food Bank for his tireless work, winning smile and boundless enthusiasm, Mr. Tom is known and loved by all with whom he comes into contact. Despite suffering from a brain tumor a decade ago, there is now slowing Mr. Tom down and he volunteers 6 or 7 days every week. He works in various areas of the Food Bank including a speciality in its technical aspects, he takes charge of technical training and has saved the organization thousands of dollars in improving efficiency in various projects. He has worked at 3 Food Pantries around Houston in his 15 years of Service, winning Volunteer of the year awards in each of them. In 2004 he won the Braes Interfaith Ministries Volunteer of the year Award, and in the same year he’s won the Christian Community Service Center Volunteer of the year Award. In 2015 he became the Houston Food Banks volunteer of the year.
This is what Adele Brady had to say about Mr. Tom when she submitted his HUG Awards nomination:
When you ask around at the Houston Food Bank, who Mr. Tom is? They will tell you that he is a phenomenal, tenacious, funny, consistent, dependable, courageous, dedicated, full of energy person. He is dedicated to the Food Bank mission of leading the fight against hunger. Mr. Tom is a survivor as well as a legend at the Houston Food Bank. He had a brain tumor more than 10 years ago. After his surgery he lost the sense of taste, and to swallow anything. He gets fed through a gastric feeding tube and lost his ability to speak clearly due to his tracheotomy tube. Even with all of his health issues Mr. Tom is at the Food Bank six days a week (seven days a week if we are open on Sundays) and has done so for more than 14 years. He manages hundreds of volunteers on our busiest days and stands out as a true leader. He brings new ideas and improves our processes. Our regular volunteers love him and he is recognized throughout the organization. We are lucky to have him. Mr. Tom is a member of the Houston Food Bank family.
THE CASE STUDY: SAMANTHA
To look at Samantha, you wouldn’t suspect that she leads anything other than an average life. She and her husband have lived in Houston for more than 30 years. She’s 46 years old, has an 11-year-old son, and has a job working in retail.
But when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that Samantha’s life is a little less average than it appears. Though truth to tell, what constitutes an average life in Houston is being rapidly redefined.
Samantha works her retail job because the family needs the income. Her husband is a truck driver, and not only is his job seasonal, but the sluggish economy in general have made for slow work. It’s been very hard for the couple to make ends meet and keep food on the table.
The family visits the Houston Food Bank Emergency Food Pantry to make sure there’s enough nutritious food to keep their son healthy and active.
“We don’t come here all the time,” Samantha says. “Only when we are in danger of running out of food. That’s a scary feeling and we are very grateful
for the food.”
Samantha considers herself lucky to be employed, though she’d naturally prefer a better job with a better salary. But she counts her blessings.