Citizenship is a way of life for Bill Reagan. His commitment to the community is the focal point of his duties as a Lutheran minister, and his service as executive director of Loaves and Fishes community shelter in Harlingen.

Reagan’s service has inspired our voters to select him as the 2018 Rio Grande Valley Citizen of the Year. His contributions to his Valley neighbors, like those of other worthy nominees, provide an example for the kind of community involvement to which we all should strive.

AIM Media Texas, parent company of Valley publications that include The Monitor, The Brownsville Herald, Valley Morning Star, El Nuevo Heraldo, Mid-Valley Town Crier, The Coastal Current and El Extra, selects a person each year who best exemplifies good citizenship and service to our community.

“Throughout the years as an AIM Media Texas company, it is our sincere pleasure to continue the tradition of honoring our RGV Citizen of the Year,” said Frank Escobedo, publisher of The Brownsville Herald, Valley Morning Star, El Nuevo Heraldo and El Extra. “We believe that it is important to recognize individuals who are making an impact in our Rio Grande Valley community at large through their daily actions. Bill Reagan does that and much more, and it gives us sincere pleasure to honor him with our 2018 Citizen of the Year distinction.”

Reagan joins past winners who include Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs the Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen; Robert Vackar, whose multimillion-dollar donation to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley helped fund the university’s business school; and Esmeralda Leal, whose Capable Kids Foundation sponsors adaptive sports and other activities for children with disabilities.

“Through his tireless work to feed the hungry in our community, Bill serves as an example to us all and this commitment does not go unnoticed by the community he serves,” Escobedo said of our current honoree. “We at AIM Media Texas wholeheartedly congratulate Bill and his family for this most deserved honor.”

Reagan’s religious calling led him from his home state of Ohio to Florida, where he headed the church’s recovery assistance after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and finally to Texas, beginning in San Antonio in 2002. He became familiar with the Harlingen area on his trips to the Valley as the church’s regional director for South Texas. He fell in love with the Valley, so when he was invited to become pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Harlingen, he accepted.

And he’s planning to stay. “This is it,” he said. “I’m not going to do anything else until I retire.”

Reagan celebrated 35 years in his ministry on July 17, 2018, and is in his 10th year at Loaves and Fishes.

His community work is an extension of his faith.

“One of the things I’m really grateful for is that this job has given me a chance to show in concrete ways what I believe,” he said.

Loaves and Fishes is not solely a Lutheran endeavor; it was created by a consortium of community churches, with representatives of each serving on the governing board. The board selected Reagan to run the facility.

Like other selfless individuals, Reagan deflects the credit for the center’s success to the 15 staff members and other volunteers who prepare and provide the food that’s available to all comers, counselors and job trainers who work with homeless people who seek help or stay at the shelter.

He notes that his primary work is administrative. As the face of the facility, Reagan spends much of his time making public appearances, raising funds and performing other executive tasks.

His work has paid off. Community support has enabled Reagan to expand the services at Loaves and Fishes. The facility now provides three meals a day, short-term shelter, job placement, GED classes and job training among other services. Loaves and Fishes has expanded into Raymondville, and Reagan is excited about a recent grant that will fund two counselors to provide mental health services for homeless people.

Local leaders have noticed Reagan’s tireless work. He received a marker on the Harlingen Walk of Fame in 2017, and the Harlingen Chamber of Commerce’s Heritage Award last year.

In addition to his dedication to the community, Reagan still takes time for himself as an avid runner. A recent battle with prostate cancer hardly slowed him down.

“I went through all the treatment, and I’m back to 100 percent,” he said, crediting the “remarkable” medical professionals in the area.

Reagan feels privileged to have his position, which he says gives him a special perspective of other citizens in the community.

“There are a lot of good people who contribute,” he said. “But they don’t get to see the people moving into new homes, people being fed. You don’t see it unless you’re involved like I am, and you get to see the kind of sacrifice and commitment from the leaders and people in the community.”

Reagan believes the ideals of good citizenship are alive and well.

“America is a society where a person can have a chance to get back on his feet,” he said.

He attributes his success to great citizens around him.

“I couldn’t do it without the wonderful people who work here, and the wonderful people in our community who support us. We have a lot of people that nobody will ever know about.

“This is not my accomplishment; it’s our accomplishment.”

AT A GLANCE

AIMMedia Texas, parent company of Valley publications that include The Monitor, The Brownsville Herald, Valley Morning Star, El Nuevo Heraldo, Mid-Valley Town Crier, The Coastal Current and El Extra, selects a person each year who best exemplifies good citizenship and service to our community. This year’s honoree is Bill Reagan, executive director of Loaves and Fishes in Harlingen.