Friends Team Up to Deliver Meals and Compassion
“I think you brought it up, didn’t you,” Julie Fernandez – Helton asks her good friend, Maria Rodriguez.
The two women are trying to remember what prompted them to become Meals on Wheels volunteers. There’s a good reason why the details are a little fuzzy - the pair began delivering our hot, nutritious lunches 20 years ago.
They first met one another five years before that when they both started working in the Communications Department at Capital Metro. They found they enjoyed each other’s company and a friendship blossomed. In 1997, “someone (from Meals on Wheels) came and did a presentation to Capital Metro, and afterward, I said ‘ah, I want to do that’,” Maria recalls.
She quickly recruited Julie; the two went through our volunteer orientation training and began delivering healthy food to our homebound clients in East Austin.
In the two decades since then, our agency has added a vast array of programs to the list of services we provide. East Austin has also evolved as the effects of gentrification squeeze many of our clients out of the neighborhood due to sky-rocketing property values. But Maria and Julie insist one thing hasn’t changed.
“The mission is still the same. We meet some great people and some folks that really need the service,” Julie says. “Our visits are important to a lot of these people. Sometimes it’s the only connection they have, we’re the only people they might see all day,” adds Maria.
Besides giving back to their community, their volunteer efforts also afford them time to visit during their deliveries. “We get to chat along the way,” Maria says. “I always drive because she has a terrible sense of direction,” Julie says of her friend. Regardless of who’s driving, the two plan to keep delivering those lunches for years to come. “It’s just another part of our friendship that we do,” Maria states. She quickly adds “hopefully we can continue doing this until we have to get Meals on Wheels ourselves.”