Jessica Estrada is the 2016 ATRS EcoArmy Summer Intern in Houston, TX. Read about her experience visiting our nonprofit partners at Houston Area Community Services to learn how they use their funding to better one of the neighborhoods where we live, work and play:


An idea tends to be inspired by something that we admire. In this case, it’s the foundation ATRS was built on. Few know of the relation between Houston Area Community Services and American Textile Recycling Service, and how both benefit each other. It wasn’t until I spoke with employees from different departments of the company that I learned of Dr. and Mrs. Peganyee’s influence on ATRS.

During weeks five and six of my internship, while I was out in the Houston community conducting demographic research, I saw several Clothing & Shoe Donation Bins with the HACS logo on them. I was still unsure how HACS served the community. But I knew that within a short amount of time, I would have the opportunity to see for myself what HACS was all about.


Fast forward to Internship Week Eight: It was time for me to get hands-on with Houston Area Community Services! I arrived at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 19 and introduced myself to Marina and Marta. I was quickly given a tour of the facility, during which I saw fifty boxes already stuffed with food and ready to be picked up by neighbors in need. To my surprise, Marina and Marta were the only workers. They alone gather food from different locations like Fiesta, Kroger and the Houston Food Bank.

As I walked further into the back room, I couldn’t help but be impressed by how organized everything was. Canned goods were labeled by the date they were received and when they had to be used. On top of that, all food is categorized by the type of fruit, vegetable or nonperishable item it is. Right before the first person walked in to pick up a box of food, Marta assigned me to front desk duty for the day. I was excited to interact with and assist those that soon would be walking through the door. By 9:05, three people had already stopped by to pick up a box of groceries.

Later in the afternoon, I took advantage of a 45-minute down period and asked Marina and Marta all I could about HACS. I learned that every first and third Tuesday is when “regulars” stop by to pick up a box of groceries. Typically, the first Tuesday is the busiest because many people don’t have enough money left over for food after having to pay rent and other bills. On the second Tuesday of each month, clothing gets distributed. However, if a newcomer were to come into the facility on a random day not being the three stated before, Marina or Marta will still assist them. They’d leave with a box of food and knowledge of the regular schedule. Marina and Marta seemed to be very familiar with the people they were serving. Whether visitors were English- or Spanish-speaking, these two wonder women had no problem interacting. During my visit, there were approximately five newcomers that I was able to assist. In total, 50 families received a box of groceries between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. this past Tuesday.

By the time Dr. Peganyee arrived around 1 p.m. for his appointments with those seeking medical care, his nursing assistant had already signed in all those waiting to see him. Dr. Peganyee was full of energy and attentive with each patient. In between appointments, he asked me about my ATRS internship and told me I was working with good people. When he asked me if I had enjoyed my time at HACS, of course I said “yes”, but that was only an understatement.


Like many of HACS regulars, my family once visited food banks also in need of groceries. We received shoes and school supply donations as well. This experience has inspired me to give back, so being able to help out at HACS was so refreshing. Overall, it was rewarding to serve the Houston area even if it was only for a short time. My experience with Marina and Marta was definitely a blast. They both were welcoming, funny, helpful and assured me that I was more than welcome to come back and help in the future! I am grateful for this opportunity to learn more about the nonprofit organization that created ATRS.

Thank you Houston Area Community Services, Dr. & Mrs. Peganyee, Marina and Marta!

Interested in what else Jessica, our Houston EcoArmy Intern, is up to? Be sure to track her time at ATRS by following her on Twitter and Instagram!