Linda Richards broke her hip last year and spent the holidays in the hospital. She said she hasn’t felt like herself since then and isn’t able to cook a fancy meal. Her two sisters live in Alabama. So on a crisp and sunny Christmas morning, when three volunteers with Meals on Wheels knocked on her door with warm food and gifts, she wiped a tear from her eye.
“They always seem to give me exactly what I need,” Richards, 84, said as she unwrapped a package of socks. “I consider Meals on Wheels my family. They have been wonderful to me. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
Richards is one of 445 homebound elderly adults in Central Texas to receive a hand-delivered meal from Meals on Wheels this Christmas: ham, sweet potatoes, spinach and strawberry glaze cake, plus donated gifts and construction paper cards, made by kids with Little Helping Hands.
“The food is important, but more important is there is such a beautiful spirit of the people that come here,” Richards said. “They are so kind and loving.”
More than 100 volunteers sacrificed their own Christmas morning with their families to make the deliveries, including twin sisters Darlene Pinson and Juanita Allen and Pinson’s husband, Robert, who have made the service opportunity a new family tradition. The sisters’ mom receives deliveries in Bertram, about 40 miles northwest of Austin.
“It feels good to know someone comes by the house when we’re not there,” Allen said.
The Pinsons and Allen delivered 10 meals to residences in East Austin. Many of the recipients were so overjoyed when they answered their doors they broke into tears.
The trio’s route was just one of 55 scheduled that day.
In a normal week, Meals on Wheels delivers food to 3,000 elderly and disabled people across Central Texas. This is the 12th year the nonprofit has offered Christmas Day meals, which it reserves for its most vulnerable population.
“Many of our clients live alone. They don’t have the resources to celebrate the holidays. Loneliness is a common emotion,” Meals on Wheels Central Texas President Adam Hauser said. “We wanted to be able to provide what we do every day of the year — a meal and a friendly visit from a volunteer — to show our clients that their community still cares about them and they are not forgotten on a day like Christmas.”
Every year a local organization steps up to sponsor the holiday meals. This year GoMediGap, a Medicare supplement insurance agency, covered the expense for the eighth time.
“Fortunately we have a very giving community,” Hauser said.
Those wishing to volunteer with Meals on Wheels Central Texas can find information on the nonprofit’s website, where it also invites donations for its regular meal delivery service.