Lyon student helps CREAR host free produce event in Batesville

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A Lyon College student is helping Independence County residents in need keep their shelves stocked during the pandemic.

CREAR, the Latino outreach organization founded by Lyon senior José Balderas Jr. (pictured), hosted a free produce pickup event on June 3 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Batesville. Volunteers were prepared to distribute free boxes of produce from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Despite the rain, volunteers handed out all 1,200 boxes of produce and impacted over 1,000 people in less than three hours, Balderas said. They supported two lanes of traffic in the church parking lot to assist everyone.

“We [hoped] to ease any burdens (food-wise) that community members may be facing.”

He said the event came together thanks to the collaboration of several organizations in Arkansas, including the Arkansas Food Bank, the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock, First Security Bank, the city of Batesville, and St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“We [were] really excited to make this event happen through the support and guidance of organizations and agencies across the state, especially during these difficult times.”

Balderas said nonprofit organizations in Arkansas were reporting that a low percentage of Latino households were visiting food pantries and banks due to the lack of information being put out in Spanish.

“While this event [was] open to all, we were approached by organizations across the state to specifically ensure we get information out in Spanish and address our local Latino community.”

The free produce event required no documentation in order for households to receive food.

“To date, this has been our biggest and most successful outreach event,” Balderas said, “and I am proud to say that, of those we impacted, roughly half were Latino households.”

CREAR was officially recognized by High Titular Consul Rodolfo Quilantán Arenas from the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock as a leading contributor to the support and well-being of the Latino community across the state of Arkansas.

“This recognition was an honor and a huge milestone for CREAR that will tremendously help us help our community by opening doors and resources,” Balderas said.

He will be in contact with the consulate to plan for a future visit, which will include an official signing of the partnership between the consulate and CREAR.

“I want to express my sincere thankfulness to all who were a part of this event,” Balderas said.

“As I sat down at the end of the day to reflect on what all had occurred during the day’s events, the first thing to come to mind was [Lyon’s] motto ‘Perseverance conquers all, God willing.’ What a fitting phrase for a successful event during these difficult times,” Balderas said.

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