Most days, a line of vehicles can be seen parked on the street in front of the Round Rock Area Serving Center, where constant traffic flows in and out as people in need of groceries, clothing and financial assistance wait their turn to be helped.

After assisting 87,400 people in 2022, Serving Center Executive Director Lori Scott said the organization has outgrown its space and is looking to almost double its footprint, which will allow the nonprofit to help more people.

Scott said the cost of living, groceries and transportation has exacerbated the needs of the Round Rock and Williamson County community.

Two-minute impact

The Round Rock Area Serving Center is a nonprofit organization working to ensure people are fed, have the clothing they need and are able to pay their bills.

However, a rise in requests for help has overwhelmed the nonprofit, Scott said.

In 2018, the center helped 48,262 people. In 2022, that number increased 81% to 87,400 clients, while the nonprofit is on pace to exceed that total in 2023, having served 59,695 people through August.

Attributing much of this growth to a rise in population and the swelling cost of living, the center has plans to expand its facilities to address the increased need.

“We haven’t seen our requests for assistance fall to the prepandemic levels,” Scott said. “It’s the cost of housing, gasoline, groceries—we’re all paying more for everything. So we’ve outgrown our building, and we’ve exceeded our capacity to increase our programs.”
The details

The Serving Center’s existing location opened in 2005 at 1099 E. Main St., Round Rock. It includes the clothing store, furniture store, food pantry and administration offices.

The building is overflowing with donations, Store and Receiving Manager Kim Dulin said. Furniture, home goods, electronic devices and more spill into the parking lot, where the bread aisle is also kept during the day.

“It’s my own personal Tetris game every day, trying to stuff all of our donations and merchandise into our small space,” Dulin said.

In response, the center’s leaders and volunteers are trying to raise $7 million for an additional facility to be built next to the current location.

The center’s two stores bring in around $500,000 annually, making up 35% of its revenue. The new space will house both shops, increasing revenue by a projected $1 million a year, Scott said.

What they’re saying

“I’ve been here 23 years, and it seems like a blink,” Lori Scott, Serving Center executive director, said. “It’s just one project after another—now we’re getting ready to build a second building. We’re just so excited about the opportunity.”

“With COVID[-19], with a tornado, with the freeze, all we have seen is the increased need for nonprofits like the Serving Center,” Craig Morgan, Round Rock mayor, said. “It’s a blessing in disguise we’re expanding, but that also says there’s a need.”

A closer look

The new building will give the Serving Center extra space, allowing it to generate more revenue and add new services, such as helping those who are struggling to make ends meet.

After seeing a spike in requests for financial assistance during the pandemic, the center is still distributing money above what it had in 2019. More than $1 million in financial assistance was given to Serving Center clients in 2022. Scott said the increased revenue will help expand those efforts, whether it be to help people pay for utility bills, rent, prescriptions or temporary lodging.

“We want to see people stay in their house or apartment, keep their utilities turned on,” she said. “If those utilities get turned off, then there are all kinds of fees to get everything turned back on. So we’re trying to help people avoid those disconnections.”

Working with area food banks, grocery stores and local gardeners to stock its food pantry with fresh fruits, vegetables and protein, the center processed 1.5 million pounds of food through its pantry last year.

Once the new facility is complete, Scott said the Serving Center’s existing space will be renovated to add veterans services offices and double the size of its food pantry—reaching a new demographic, processing more food and offering a greater variety.

People who meet the center’s income guidelines can receive vouchers to shop at the clothing and furniture stores; the Computers for Kids Program provides students with refurbished computers; and the Keep Round Rock Warm Initiative collects and distributes winter coats. All of these programs can benefit from the center’s expansion, Scott said.

Next steps

The nonprofit is still fundraising for its new building. As of mid-September, the campaign was $1 million short.

Once the full $7 million is raised, it will still take 12-18 months to complete the building. Furthermore, Capital Campaign Chair Nyle Maxwell said the last remaining dollars are the hardest to collect.

Although funds are needed for the center to operate, it also takes 25-40 volunteers per day just to open the doors. Regular volunteer Diane Ramirez said donating her time is a fulfilling experience.

“I’ve been through it before when I was a little girl. My mom was willing to go anywhere they could help us,” she said. “So my job here is rewarding to me.”

There are a variety of ways to volunteer at the Serving Center, including:
  • Stocking the food pantry
  • Answering phones
  • Driving trucks
  • Organizing donations
  • Working in the gardens
  • Refurbishing computers
  • Washing clothing