SAN ANTONIO – There are a million reasons for hungry children in the San Antonio area to smile as they head into spring break week.
An emergency food pantry on the city's NE Side that has a reputation of not turning anyone away just got funded for the future with a $1 million donation from Kym Rapier's family foundation.
Marion Thomas, a retiree who opened the Blessed Angels Community Center five years ago, has struggled.
Thomas has been known to pull funds from her own retirement account to keep her doors open and offer food and services to those in need.
This million-dollar donation is a game changer.
"It means that we are going to be able to help so many more people. We are going to give out more food, have more resources to the community. The sky's the limit," Thomas said.
During Friday's announcement, there was an audible gasp from volunteers, clients and supporters of the center -- who were crowded by stacks and stacks of food items likely to be given away Monday at the center's annual Spring Break food giveaway -- when Thomas revealed the largess exhibited by the Rapier family.
Kym Rapier has given away more than $10 million to struggling San Antonio nonprofits in just the last year, creating an impact that ripples throughout the community.
When Rapier's gift was revealed, the crowd burst into excited applause.
Marion Smith was one of several who cried tears of joy. She came to Blessed Angels Community Center as a last resort when her family lost everything in a series of bad-luck incidents.
Smith explained her caregiving responsibilities, saying, "I have seven children, three grandchildren and one on the way, a sister with a cognitive disability, (and) a grandmother who just lost a leg."
She has only enough gas to drive from her home near Floresville to the center on Nacogdoches Road twice a month to feed her crew.
Smith burst into tears again while offering gratitude to Thomas for all she has been able to give.
"Congratulations. Oh, my God, I am so proud of you, Miss Marion, and I just want to thank you for everything," Smith said to Thomas.
The donation sets up Blessed Angels for quite a turnaround.
In February, a fire started in the building and, while it did not cause a great deal of damage, it was a wakeup call that it might be time to expand to a larger operation -- something that is now within reach.
And that takes the Blessed Hearts Community Center Emergency Food Pantry story back to spring break, when the largest food giveaway is planned for Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The center's doors will open to anyone from all school districts, no appointment needed.
Thomas said many children can only get one meal a day through their school lunch program, and they go to bed hungry.
The giveaway will ensure that children home for the break will still be able to eat.
Volunteers are also needed and anyone interested is asked to be at Blessed Angels Community Center by 8:30 a.m. on Monday.