Bill Reagan is retiring after more than 11 years as executive director of Loaves and Fishes community shelter in Harlingen. He leaves behind a legacy of service that should inspire his successors to continue his work, and an example of public service that many people should take to heart.
Reagan’s work was the inspiration that led to his selection as the 2018 Rio Grande Valley Citizen of the Year, chosen by AIM Media Texas, parent company of Valley publications that include The Monitor, Valley Morning Star, The Brownsville Herald, El Nuevo Heraldo, Mid-Valley Town Crier, The Coastal Current and El Extra. Over the years he has been recognized in other ways, including a marker on the Harlingen Walk of Fame and the Harlingen Chamber of Commerce Heritage Award.
Reagan told us he felt a calling to dedicate his efforts to the shelter, much like the calling that led him to become a Lutheran minister decades earlier and to come to the Valley in 2009 after heading churches in Ohio, Florida and San Antonio. He was pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church before taking over the reins at Loaves and Fishes. He noted that his work at the shelter and food kitchen was an extension of the ministry to which he had committed his life some 38 years ago.
“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 told our editorial board.
He has enabled the facility to thrive and grow by utilizing a wealth of personal resources, including administrative skills to organize more than a dozen staffers and volunteers and an ability to win support from community members whose generous support he has inspired. His work and that support have enabled the center to expand its reach. It now provides three meals a day, short-term shelter and services that include job training and placement efforts and GED instruction. It also has opened a second location in Willacy County.
Reagan’s strength and commitment helped him to continue working through a recent battle with prostate cancer.
Through word and deed, Reagan has set an example that should inspire others to similarly reach out to help others, with the knowledge that one person really can make a difference in the lives of others, especially those who must rely on others for help.
In an ideal world that need might not be so widespread as it is today, but Bill Reagan, like other community members at all levels, do what they can to help lighten the load for so many others.
He hands over stewardship of the facility to Victor Rivera and staff, who surely will draw from Reagan’s example to tend to the public’s needs.
We thank Reagan for his devotion to the community and congratulate him on a well-deserved retirement, although we doubt the change will mean much of a slowdown for the devoted runner who likely will find new ways to be a valuable member of our community.
May his example inspire others to examine how they can make their own contributions.