Dozens of Las Vegas Valley residents lined up at the Clark County Government Center amphitheater for an outdoor free food market Saturday morning.
The event was put together by County Commisioner Lawrence Weekly as his Make A Difference Day project in conjunction with Lutheran Social Services of Nevada and Three Square food bank.
“We’re busy throughout the year, but today is a special day,” said Weekly.
Organizers issued 400 vouchers for the free food market to residents seeking assistance from county Social Services, Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority and Lutheran Social Services. They also targeted some poor neighborhoods. The vouchers help organizers with crowd control and record-keeping, and extras were handed out to people who did not have one.
Participants from 131 households were given shopping bags and walked down the line of tables selecting from fresh fruits and vegetables as well bread and pastries.
Three Square provided enough produce for 14,166 meals in the three hours the event took place, Three Square official Dan Williams said.
“Everyone seems really excited and grateful,” said 17-year-old Victoria Gordon of Clark High School. “It’s really fun.”
Gordon is volunteering because of an advanced placement government class project, but she said she enjoys the work.
“It’s really beneficial to the community, especially with the holidays coming up,” she said.
Around 30 volunteers lent assistance handing out food, helping the elderly carry bags and boxes to their cars. The volunteers came from all over, including the county’s Gang Intervention Team.
Juvenile probation officer Kevin Niday brought 16 kids to help out.
“They really enjoy it,” Niday said. “It exposes them to something they’ve never seen before, and it does have an effect on them.”
“This is where the heart is,” said Armena Mnatsaknyan,
executive director of Lutheran Social Services.
She said a lot of people are “just a paycheck away from poverty.”
Belinda Nance, 49, brought her niece to the free food market. Nance said she has struggled with cancer three times over the past decade and lost her disability assistance when her caseworker was laid off.
“It’s really messed up, because I’m still supposed to be getting more treatments,” Nance said.
“We get a lot of seniors, a lot of single moms, and a lot of unemployed (people),” said programs officer Shawna Brody of Lutheran Social Services.
On Tuesday the organization will be giving out food again as well as vision, blood pressure and diabetes exams at 73 Spectrum Blvd.
“Medicine is sick care,” Brody said. “Food and nutrition is health care.”
Contact reporter Wesley Juhl at firstname.lastname@example.org and (702) 383-0381. Follow him on Twitter @WesJuhl.