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Hooked on East Texas shares a special holiday food bank: Ethelsgiving

A unique food drive with a unique name in Henderson county

TYLER, Texas — This isn't your typical holiday food drive. In this week's Hooked On East Texas, we have a story of how a fish inspired a food drive with an unusual name. 

Help feed the hungry and you can feed the fish at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. It’s Ethelsgiving at T-F-F-C, a unique food drive that celebrates and honors the legacy of Ethel, the 17 pound, 25 inch long bass that started it all.

T-F-F-C events coordinator Katie Birk said Ethel started a world famous effort that made Texas the Big Bass capital of the world.

“Ethelsgiving is a way to celebrate the ShareLunker program," Birk said.

The ShareLunker program selectively pairs big bass with even bigger bass to create ShareLunkers. Legacy ShareLunker weigh at least 13 pounds. 

Ethel gave a lot to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. She was the first bass in the ShareLunker program so, she gave to the TFFC. 

"It’s our chance to give back by donating to Ethelsgiving," Birk said as she demonstrated how easy it is to donate a can or other non-perishable product. 

TFFC has a special container placed near the entrance of the facility. There is a replica of a bass on top of the collection bin. 

"Any cans that fit in here you can just insert, or we have a bigger deposit back here, either way it’ll get to the food pantry," Birk said.

Just remember, feed the hungry, feed the fish.

“In the month of November, we’ve already gotten 200-dollars in monetary donations to go toward the food pantry," Birk said. "So it’s not only food you can give  but also monetary donations". 

Jan Kirkwood is with the Henderson County Food Pantry. 

“You know we need to be good stewards with the money we’re given," Kirkwood said. "We buy the basics, then we depend on these food drives for the extras, things like pickles and cranberry sauce.”  

All the food and money collected go to the Henderson County Food Pantry. Inflation and supply chain issues are challenges facing food pantries across East Texas. And the Henderson County food pantry is experiencing a big increase in demand.  

"There are a lot of families that are having to choose between paying their rent and buying food and that is a sad state of affairs," Mary Alice Alfred, Henderson County Food Pantry organizer said.

The food pantry served 727 people in October. They know November and December will be big. 

“It’s grown from last year, we’re still seeing people that are recovering from COVID and job losses," Alfred said. 

"More people are coming, bigger families, more new people, people that haven’t been here before. You know, they’re feeling the crunch," Kirkwood added.

Back at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, Ethelsgiving is an attempt to ease that pinch. 

“Ethel was our first ShareLunker and because she was the first one to be shared with us, we want to share with our community," Birk said. 

Not bad for a food drive inspired by a fish. Ethelsgiving runs through the end of November. 

Besides canned or boxed food, you can drop off diapers and other paper goods, including paper towels and tissues.


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