Giving is one of the most special ways to celebrate the holiday season! It’s what makes Christmas cheer so bright and ties us closer to the ones we love the most. So, this year, why not grab up your tater tots and teach the family the gift of service through ongoing volunteering.
Meals on Wheels is a nationwide non-profit volunteering-based program with many opportunities across Texas and beyond for you and your family to get involved.
Meals on Wheels Central Texas (MOWCTX) is not only one of the largest meal-delivery organizations in the state, distributing 3,000 meals each business day to homebound older adults and people with disabilities. The agency also offer security checks, pet care, in-home care, and repairs to ensure a well-rounded companionship system in Central Texas.
MOWCTX CEO Adam Hauser talks here about their holistic approach to volunteering. Hauser also discusses how the COVID pandemic has altered the traditional ways to get involved at the holiday season. No worries, though — there are still ways for your family to help through giving and serving those in need.
What does MOWCTX’s holistic approach mean, and why is it important?
We offer “More Than a Meal.” That means, first, that our meal delivery volunteers and staff deliver not only nutritious meals but also provide much needed companionship and safety checks for homebound seniors. And second, after almost 50 years of actively listening to seniors in our community and based on their needs and a keen understanding of the social determinants of health, we built and continue to offer a broad platform of other services coordinated by our experienced social workers. This is critically important because it acknowledges the complex needs of homebound seniors and enables MOWCTX to address those needs in a way that helps them continue living with dignity and independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
What are some current programs being offered at MOWCTX?
[As well as] our signature home-delivered meal program, we also offer home modifications to enhance safety and accessibility, in-home care for clients needing assistance with daily living activities, free pet food and veterinary care for clients’ pets who are often their only companion, and respite care for clients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, to name a few.
How can people get involved with MOWCTX?
It’s easy to get involved with our organization. Our agency was founded by volunteers and they continue to be the lifeblood of our organization, helping us serve over 5,000 seniors in Central Texas. Our greatest current need is for more volunteers (approximately 500 by year end) in our home delivered meal program to help us address the very real challenge of senior hunger in our fast-growing Central Texas senior population. People can also support our mission by making a meaningful gift during the holiday season so that we can continue to provide our life-sustaining services to older adults in need in our community.
Does MOWCTX have any urgent volunteer needs?
We are planning to resume our daily meal delivery schedule on January 24, 2022 and urgently need to fill volunteer spots for our remaining open delivery routes. The pandemic has certainly created uncertainty and change for everyone, including in how we interact with each other, work and volunteer in our communities. We are fortunate to have so many wonderful, dedicated volunteers who have helped us throughout the pandemic, and we look forward to recruiting new ones to join us in our mission to bring smiles and meals to our homebound seniors in need.
What have you personally gained from volunteering at Meals on Wheels?
I’ve been a volunteer for over 30 years delivering meals. Being able to actively participate in addressing senior hunger and loneliness has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Inspired by a close relationship with my maternal grandmother centered on food, the mission of Meals on Wheels has enabled me to form special relationships with the dear seniors we serve by exchanging food and friendship with them—two of our most important basic needs.
How is the Meal on Wheels team celebrating the holidays this year?
We will be providing holiday meals to all of our home-delivered meal clients the week before Christmas. In addition, we are partnering with the Austin American-Statesman for their annual Season for Caring campaign, helping a family of one of our meal clients rebuild their home that was destroyed by fire. This annual campaign is sponsored by the newspaper’s Editorial and Community Development departments and introduces readers to Central Texans in need and the nonprofit agencies that provide services to them.
How has COVID affected volunteering at MOWCTX?
Because we serve a population that is most vulnerable to COVID-19, we immediately modified our delivery protocols to protect the health and safety of our clients, staff and volunteers. To reduce the frequency of contacts and risk of infection, we transitioned from daily to bi-weekly deliveries (with curbside meal pickup by our volunteers) and instituted new protocols requiring mask wearing and distancing during meal deliveries at the homes of our clients.
Cover photo courtesy Meals on Wheels Central Texas
Brittany Clark is an Editorial Intern at TLM and student at the University of Phoenix. During her spare time, she can be found cooking and catching sunsets on the beach.