The Rio Grande Valley is blessed with many people who are willing to help the less fortunate.
Bill Reagan is one of the special few who has made it his life’s work. With nearly a decade as executive director of Loaves and Fishes in downtown Harlingen, Reagan deserves consideration as RGV Citizen of the Year.
An Ohio native, Reagan earned degrees in education and divinity. His pastoral ministry with the Lutheran Church led him from Ohio to Florida, where he headed the Lutheran Disaster Response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and eventually to Texas. He has lived in the Valley for a quarter century, and has been executive director of Loaves and Fishes since January 2010.
While Reagan’s ministry is Lutheran, Loaves and Fishes is nondenominational, receiving volunteers and support from some three dozen churches as well as secular community groups, foundations and individuals.
The facility originally opened to provide meals to the hungry, serving more than 130,000 meals a year.
“Anybody that comes into our dining hall and asks for a plate of food gets a plate of food, no questions asked, and gets as many plates of food as they ask for,” Reagan said in a 2016 KVEO-TV interview. “It’s been that way now for over 25 years.”
Loaves and Fishes also has a food pantry that distributes food that people can take home, and it has 42 beds for those who need shelter. Through Reagan’s guidance, it has expanded to offer other valuable services, including free GED high school equivalency classes and courses on computer literacy, resume preparation and other skills that can help people qualify for jobs and gain independence.
Such work requires a commitment that goes beyond simply running a soup kitchen and shelter. It means finding resources when the economy is at its worst, because that’s when the need is the greatest. It means weathering every storm, no matter how severe, because the community depends on him to help provide shelter to those who need it most.
Community leaders say that before every storm or freeze warning, Reagan calls officials to remind them that Loaves and Fishes is ready to provide food and shelter to those who need it.
And with so much on his plate, he still finds time to submit the occasional column on giving and life in general in the Valley Morning Star.
Reagan’s work has earned him recognition throughout the community. Most recently he was inducted into the Harlingen Walk of Fame in 2017, and this year he received the Heritage Award from the Harlingen Chamber of Commerce.
“I can’t think of a person who deserves it more,” Harlingen Police Chief Jeffry Adickes said in presenting the Heritage Award to Reagan in September.
“This man embodies five loaves and two fishes. What he does there is amazing,” Adickes said in reference to the biblical account of Jesus feeding multitudes with limited resources.
RGV Citizen of the Year would be an appropriate addition to the accolades Reagan has received.
Nominated by The Monitor Editorial Board.