Lines of cars filled the parking lot of the River City Community Church in Selma on March 12, as the San Antonio Food Bank hosted a food distribution event in partnership with the Sarma Charitable Foundation.
Michael Guerra, chief development officer with the food bank, said 750 households were served at the distribution, representing about 3,000 people.
The event was made possible by a $100,000 donation to the food bank as part of a newly announced partnership with the Sarma Foundation. More than 30 Sarma employees also helped staff the distribution.
Sarma is a financial company that provides services in mortgage credit, credit reporting, employment and tenant screening, and bad debt collection services.
Bob Benavides, president and CEO of Sarma, also known as San Antonio Retail Merchant’s Association, said the Sarma Foundation was created last year as a way to begin giving back to the community that has supported the company for its 114-year history.
“The whole purpose was to return back to the community in the areas where our clients have supported us, and San Antonio’s a big market for us,” Benavides said.
Although the company began in San Antonio, it now sells its services all over the United States, with a focus on South Central Texas and South Florida.
“The primary mission continues to be to serve the community we’re being supported by,” Benavides said.
Benavides said starting the foundation last year during the pandemic helped to clarify the initial priorities for the foundation’s charitable giving.
“It was a very hard year to take a good look at what we could do for the community,” he said, “We said the immediate need was hunger and health.”
In keeping with those goals, the foundation’s team picked the San Antonio Food Bank as its first partnership, which has seen a huge increase in need during the pandemic while also experiencing a steep drop in volunteers and donors.
The Sarma Foundation partnership comes at a critical time for the food bank, because, in addition to the increased need created by the pandemic, Guerra said the winter storm in February created another huge spike in need. He said numbers for food distributions shot up by about 7,000 more per day in the week after the storm hit.
Sarma Foundation’s donation to the Food Bank has been used in part for sponsorship of one of the food bank’s trucks, which bears the foundation’s name and logo now. Guerra said trucks are crucial to food rescuing and distribution.
“It takes capital and it takes vehicles,” Guerra said. “And to have the support of Sarma and the Sarma Foundation to put a vehicle on the road with their name on it we’re proud, because it shows a great partnership, and it shows that they’re here, that they’re in the community. That truck doesn’t get filled with gas or have a driver in it without somebody local like our friends at the Sarma Foundation.”
Benavides said already he has been so inspired by the work he’s seen accomplished by the food bank that going forward he wants to keep supporting the organization beyond monetary donations.
“We’re going to continue to support the food bank over and above our initial partnership,” Benavides said.
The Sarma Foundation’s team is also planning to announce a second partnership in April with another San Antonio organization as part of the goal of meeting the community’s health needs. Aside from helping with the current looming hunger and health crises, Benavides said the foundation is also hoping to work with organizations that promote financial literacy.
The Sarma Charitable Foundation is actively looking to partner with charitable organizations in South Central Texas and South Florida. Because the foundation is private and closed, program directors research and extend offers to nonprofit groups that share the mission of making real and practical change possible in the daily lives of people in the communities that Sarma serves.