For years, 72-year-old East Austin resident Hermona Surita volunteered for Meals on Wheels, bringing food and a little bit of company to those who struggle to make it on their own.
On Thursday, the group — and Gov. Greg Abbott — returned the favor, bringing a little bit Thanksgiving cheer to her door.
“We wanted to make sure that all people would have access to a great meal and some communication on Thanksgiving,” said the governor, who was joined by his wife, Cecilia, a longtime Meals on Wheels volunteer, and daughter, Audrey. “It’s rewarding to get to see these people, who cannot get out like other people can.”
Abbott’s stop at Surita’s home was the second of three meal deliveries the Texas first family made Thanksgiving morning, after beginning the day by greeting volunteers, including actor Matthew McConaughey, at the Meals on Wheels offices on East 5th Street.
“I wanted to thank the volunteers, for them coming out on a holiday to help serve others,” Abbott added. “That’s what being a Texan is all about.”
Surita sat on the edge of a neatly made bed, in the front room of her modest home on a quiet block of Gonzales Street, waiting for Abbott on Thursday morning.
With reporters and news camera operators milling outside, she pointed to pictures that hung on the wall — a visual time capsule of her life and the changing times. It’s where the mother of five raised her children, and where she played with her grandchildren (24) and great-grandchildren (16) who keep her young. It’s a place that she told her now-departed husband of 34 years — he died of cancer in 1993 — she would not leave. The house is her life.
And it’s not for a lack of offers. She said many real estate agents have come by and sent offer letters — further evidence of the wave of gentrification washing across East Austin. She doesn’t bother to respond to them.
“This home, my kids grew (up here),” she said. “This is where my husband left me.”
The former school monitor moves more slowly now and kept a cane by her side as she spoke. But she makes a point of going to church every Sunday.
“I’ve got more peace than I used to,” she said. “I feel like being in church is the best thing for me that I can have.”