Like Mother, Like Daughter

October 4, 2018

The day Vanessa Gallagher first walked through our doors to volunteer, her goal was to deliver our nutritious lunches to the homebound older adults we serve.  But things didn’t pan out the way she planned, and 10 years later, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Her daughter, Sophie, was only three-and-a-half years old when Vanessa decided to be an MOWCTX volunteer, and she planned to take Sophie along on the days she delivered meals.  “When I went in for my training, they said ‘be aware, you’re going to be taking her out of her car seat [several times] during your route’.  It was the middle of summer and I thought gosh, that sounds really hot and hard and I don’t know how my daughter is going to tolerate all of that,” Vanessa recalls with a laugh.  Fortunately, there was a simple solution.  It turns out there was a meal manager’s position open at one of our satellite distribution sites and Vanessa could bring Sophie on the days she volunteered in that capacity.  So, what’s a Meal Manager?  Allow Vanessa to explain: “I’m responsible for making sure that all of our routes get picked up in a timely manner.  I’m responsible if there’s any difficulty in a route.  If we’re missing a meal, or somebody doesn’t know where to go, I help [volunteers] problem solve, and make sure that all of our clients get served.”

Once a week, Vanessa heads to our Austin New Church distribution site on South Lamar and helps volunteer drivers pick up their meals and get quickly on their way to clients’ homes.  “I’m here supporting our drivers and the most wonderful thing about that is my relationship with them.  I get a connection with people who are doing amazing things in the community.  That fills my emotional bucket,” she says.

And what about Sophie?  She’s a teenager now.  And, because she’s home-schooled twice a week, she’s still helping her mom volunteer.  In fact, early on, the experience helped her learn her colors and how to count.  “Getting to see her count out the meals and match the colors was fun.  It was an educational process for her,” recalls Vanessa.  These days, Sophie can do it all.  “She runs the [computerized check-in] tablet, she gets the hot meals, she gets the cold [bags]. She could do this without me, no problem,” her proud mom says.

Asked if she’d like to follow in her mother’s footsteps, Sophie replies “In a few years, once I start driving, I would love to be a (volunteer) for Meals on Wheels.  I feel like that’s something that would be really fun and meaningful.” It turns out counting and colors weren’t the only things Sophie learned watching her mom volunteer.