Our Response to COVID-19

“I Take Care of My Husband and Meals on Wheels Central Texas Takes Care of Us Both”

May 24, 2021

Dominga Olivarez, 91, and her husband, Refugio, 94, have been living in their East Austin home since 1965. They are proud home owners. As new arrivals in the 1960s, the couple rented a few houses before they had saved up enough money from Mr. Olivarez’s farming business to buy this home. “This house…it was my husband’s work. It is why we don’t want to leave.”

Mrs. Olivarez helped with the down payment by taking any job she could find. “I did a lot of work in the fields. You name it, I’ve done it!”

Both now receive nutritious meals delivered by Meals on Wheels Central Texas volunteers, even throughout the entire pandemic. Mrs. Olivarez says the food deliveries make her role as primary caregiver for her husband, who is disabled, easier. 

The couple also receives pet food and free veterinary care for their two dogs, Boo and Tyson, and their cat, Becky, through the MOWCTX PALS (Pets Assisting the Lives of Seniors) program. Mrs. Olivarez tells us the dogs belonged to her grandsons, one of whom passed away a few years ago.

She tells us that the home holds decades of memories for the couple; they raised their two children here and hosted visits by their grandchildren. “We have been through a lot in this house and many, many years. It’s important to us that we stay here.”

In February, the East Austin couple lost power during the historic winter storm. Mrs. Olivarez shares that, for about four or five days, they didn’t have any electricity and were very cold. “I was in the corner, covered with quilts, but I was shaking.” Her family was able to stop by to check in on them and make sure they stayed warm. And, when it was safe to do so, MOWCTX volunteers also brought them cases of water and an emergency disaster relief box.

Once the power was restored, the couple still struggled with a water outage because of a burst pipe in the restroom. They were very thankful for the MOWCTX Home Repair team who fixed the damage so they could recover from the storm.

When she is not caring for her husband or pets, Mrs. Olivarez spends her time gardening. Thanks to the Home Repair team, her husband can now join her outside: they built a special wheelchair ramp to make their East Austin home more accessible. She shares that it is their happy place. “When I’m outside, in my garden, I forget everything.”