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Sheila Haltom, left, former head of the Moore County Food Bank,  presents a check for $8,000 to Stephanie Purcell of the Panhandle Children's Foundation.  The donation comes from funds left over from the food bank, which closed earlier this year.

Last week, Sheila Haltom gave Panhandle Children's Foundation (PCF) $8,000 of the money that was left over after the closing of the Moore County Food Pantry, an organization she and her late husband, John, ran for many years.  "He was one of the founders of Panhandle Children's Foundation.  When we closed the pantry and had to give the money away to non-profit agencies, that would have been one he would have wanted to be on the top of the list," she said.  "He loved, loved the Panhandle Children's Foundation.  This money came from John, even though he isn't here … it was given in his memory."

"Sheila contacted us," said Stephanie Purcell of PCF talking about how the donation came about.  "We just want to acknowledge that Panhandle Children's Foundation did receive those funds and how grateful we are to get them."

The money will go into the general fund of PCF.  "We all year long take requests for disabled, disadvantaged kids," said Purcell.  Among other things, PCF helps families with disabled or disadvantaged children pay travel expenses when they have to go beyond Dumas or Amarillo for medical care.  In addition, PCF sponsors five camps at Talon Point every year that bring disabled and disadvantaged children from around the Panhandle to a setting where they are able to spend time having fun with other children facing similar challenges in a safe environment that has been created with their special needs in mind.  The camps are free for the participating families.  PCF also helps pay for medical devices that private insurance and/or Medicaid either will not pay for or only partially pay for, said Purcell.  "We give out a lot of money all year long, so these funds will help," she said.

Haltom says her husband, Steve Rehkopf, and Ronnie Hatter were the three original founders of PCF.  "They wanted to help children with special needs.  The three of them organized it and put a board together," she said.  "Their focus was on helping children."  The three founders were Valero employees, and, according to Haltom, the initial board members they chose to oversee the organization were also fellow Valero employees.  Most of the initial financial support for PCF came from Valero.   Valero remains heavily involved in supporting the organization.

Haltom says she was able to keep the food pantry going for several months after her husbands death, but the recent sale of the building that the pantry was operating from made it impossible to continue.  When the pantry closed its doors, she donated the remaining food to the pantry run by Dumas Education and Social Ministries (DESM) operated from Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church -- though some was stolen in a recent burglary -- and distributed the remaining money to non-profit agencies.   "John didn't get any state funding or United Way funding.  The county gave him $6,000 per year, and it was all on a whim and a prayer."  She said they put considerable amounts of their personal money into the pantry.  Nevertheless, "there was plenty of money left," she said.  She recently received a $5,000 donation from 69th District Attorney David Green's Pre-Trial Diversion fund.  That money too has gone to the DESM, and Haltom says Green has assured her that, in the future, the money that would have gone to the Moore County Food Pantry will go to DESM.  Haltom, who also runs Meals on Wheels, says she hopes DESM will be able to continue to serve the needs of her former clients.  "We served 250 people twice a month," she said.  "The Catholic Church wants to expand their food ministry, and I think that is awesome."

Those interested in more information about Panhandle Children's Foundation or who want to apply for services can go to panhandlechildrensfoundation.org

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