Serving as parade marshals for the 2017 La Vernia Bluebonnet Fest Parade this Saturday are Don and Roz Miller.
In 2003, Roz Miller went to the La Vernia Christian Food Pantry along with Jenna Spear, with the intention of handing out food. Instead, Roz and Jenna were assigned leadership roles. Jenna Spear became the coordinator for the La Vernia United Methodist Church and Roz became the coordinator for the entire La Vernia Christian Food Pantry. The La Vernia Ministerial Alliance, comprising 10 churches, is the governing body of the La Vernia Christian Food Pantry.
For the last 14 years, Roz and her husband, Don, have served the families in the La Vernia Independent School District, the coverage area of the pantry.
Throughout most of the year, they serve 45 families, but from October through December, they’ve served up to 116, Roz said.
“They have worked tirelessly and have done so for many years,” Jenna said of the Millers. “Everyone I’ve talked to has said how enjoyable it is to work around Roz and Don. She keeps a tight ship and runs it by the rules; that’s why she’s so good at it.”
Due to the outstanding way the La Vernia Christian Food Pantry is run, the San Antonio Food Bank has named the La Vernia Christian Food Pantry as its food pantry of the year during the ninth annual Golden Apple banquet April 3 in San Antonio. It also was named Nutrition Partner of the Year.
Roz said that the La Vernia Christian Food Pantry partners with the San Antonio Food Bank, but the entire community of La Vernia supports it.
“Our schools are always having fundraisers for us, plus we get lots of volunteers from the student body,” she said. “Plus, our churches give us food and funds to buy groceries from our La Vernia H-E-B.”
Don coordinates with other volunteers to collect all the groceries needed to provide for all the families. Roz works full time as a manager of an Air Force civil service pathology laboratory.
“Don is amazing,” she said. “God puts partners together for a reason.”
Together with representatives from the 10 member churches, they offer the best they can to families who come for assistance.
“Each of the 10 church coordinators adds their gifts/strengths to the team bringing about positive ideas all the time for our families,” Roz said.
The San Antonio Food Bank does yearly inspections, but also sends a coordinator to share healthy recipes, food charts, and more.
“Ana Chavez, the nutrition education coordinator for the San Antonio Food Bank, is amazed by what we do here,” Roz said. “When people from the San Antonio Food Bank ask what makes La Vernia different, Ana tells them, ‘You just wouldn’t believe it. You just have to experience it.’”
What does makes it different? Roz and Don’s attitude.
“They are not the needy,” Roz explained. “They are family. They are our neighbors. Hold your head up. Be proud. This is not a place to be ashamed of coming to. Come here with dignity. We treat you with dignity.”
They try to make families aware of better food choices, she said. They offer fresh produce now, since a cooler was installed.
They’ve also created a welcoming environment.
“We had a decorator come in so it looks more like a living room to make people more comfortable,” Roz said. “We are family friendly. We have a play area for the kids -- a place they want to be, not a place they have to be.”
Of the welcome she and Don offer to pantry families, Roz said, “We are letters of recommendation for Christ. We want them [the families] to know that they are welcome in any of our churches.”
Be sure to smile and wave at these two tireless workers, honored as the La Vernia Bluebonnet Parade grand marshals this Saturday, April 22.