#DealershipsGivingBack: The line of cars outside the Lost Pines Toyota dealership in Bastrop, Texas on Friday morning consistently numbered nearly two dozen vehicles of all makes and models.
Stretched in a line across the dealership’s front parking lot, the cars inched toward the front, where Pastor Roland Nava of the In The Streets Hands Up High Ministry (ITSHUH) and dealership owner Carlos Liriano were waiting along with Salvation Army workers and Lost Pines Toyota employees to give food boxes to residents in need.
Each car and the people in it were greeted with a smile before the reason for their visit arrived: Bags and boxes full of food donations that were loaded onto backseats and trunks, providing Bastrop area residents who are struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic with their next meals.
The event was a partnership between Lost Pines Toyota and the Salvation Army.
Nava, who in addition to ITSHUH is also the board director for the Salvation Army of Bastrop County, said the event was just the latest instance of community groups in the county coming together to help residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We know that there’s a great need and people are losing jobs due to COVID-19,” Nava said. “The people are more than joyful to receive these boxes of food.”
Use of the Lost Pines Toyota dealership for the drive-thru service came about thanks to a partnership between the Salvation Army and the Toyota Lexus Minority Owners Dealership Association.
Local residents were also able to pick up food bags and boxes in person at the Bastrop Housing Authority.
Event organizers distributed more than 200 food bags and boxes — complete with non-perishable items like pasta, rice, canned vegetables, soup, peanut butter, and snacks — to Bastrop area residents who signed up for the food distribution by registering over the phone.
Nava said Lost Pines Toyota employees handled the passing out of food items during the event while the Salvation Army oversaw the registration process.
“When they receive that box, you just see some (people) with tears of joy,” Nava said.
The food distribution partnership is the latest example of the Salvation Army’s efforts to help Bastrop County residents and the latest form of community engagement from Lost Pines Toyota, which Liriano opened in 2012.
“This is what car dealers do,” Liriano said. “There’s a need in our community and we’re stepping up to help with this need at this time.”
About two months ago, Lost Pines Toyota held a Christmas toy drive for children, and Liriano said knowing the investments families make to buy Christmas gifts further stressed the need to do another event to help with food and household supplies.
“Hunger doesn’t know the day of the week,” Liriano said. “I’m blessed to have a team here at Lost Pines Toyota where they do this on Friday, they do this on Monday, they do this all the time. It’s kind of in our DNA to be able to do this.”
Nava, through both ITSHUH and the Salvation Army, also plans to continue holding food drives and other community-focused donation events in the near future throughout Bastrop County, including in Elgin and Smithville.
“It’s very important that the Salvation Army continues to receive donations so we can keep doing this,” Nava said. “People have been looking now to the Salvation Army for the past six months since COVID came to fill in some gaps.”
Helping prop up Bastropians
Liriano and his Lost Pines Toyota dealership have long had an active civic presence in Bastrop.
Nava, who also relocated to Bastrop and began operating his ministry eight years ago, recalls Liriano helping with community picnics at Jewell Hodges Park and helping with other endeavors that have benefited local residents in need of help.
For Liriano, the desire to help those in need comes from his journey to Bastrop.
He was born in Cuba before immigrating to the United States with his parents when he was a child. They settled in New Orleans, where Liriano and his family lived in a housing development.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to go from that position to where I am today, but I can’t forget where I’ve come from,” Liriano said.
He remembers living in a childhood home without air conditioning, where his mother would stretch one meal for days because of the family’s limited income.
Liriano can also recall the joy that comes from receiving a helping hand.
The recent Christmas toy drive triggered memories for Liriano of participating in the Toys for Tots program run by the Marine Corps as a child and visiting the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans to receive a small toy truck.
“That truly is what life is all about,” Liriano said. “That little moment, when someone is able to have a little food or a child is able to open their toy box and just have a smile, that’s what life is all about. The business, the work, all the things we do on a regular busy day don’t mean anything, that’s what it’s all about.”