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'Their smiles just melt us': Gov. Abbott joins Meals on Wheels for Thanksgiving meal distribution

Earl Hopkins
Austin 360
Volunteers line up outside the East Austin Meals on Wheels location to pick up and deliver up to a dozen hot meals each this Thanksgiving.

In the central kitchen of the Meals on Wheels distribution center, 350 packages filled with warm and savory Thanksgiving dishes were packed and ready to land in the hands of Austin seniors Thursday morning. 

Between the turkey breast and gravy, cornbread stuffing, green beans and peppers, and carrot cake, every item was garnished with the love and support of community volunteers like Mike Prochoroff.

Prochoroff, who has worked at Meals on Wheels Central Texas for nearly 30 years, said the organization's mission is one the world should embrace — to create conversation and smiles every Thanksgiving.

"It's what we are supposed to do. It's the way the world should work," Prochoroff, 72, said. "We are keeping people in their homes and keeping them fed, and that's a lot to be thankful for. This is such a positive thing." 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his wife Cecilia, left, and daughter Audrey, left center, stop at the home of Lena Shaw to deliver a hot Thanksgiving meal and dessert for Meals on Wheels on Nov. 25, 2021.

Gov. Greg Abbott, First Lady Cecilia Abbott and their daughter Audrey greeted community volunteers of the East Austin-based organization to thank them for their efforts.

Part of the Austin community since 1972, Meals on Wheels distributes 3,000 meals each business day to homebound seniors and others with disabilities. On Thanksgiving, the organization assigns volunteer drivers to drop off hot meals to the homes of those in need. 

Adam Hauser, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels, said senior hunger and isolation are big challenges for the community, particularly around the holidays.

"To have the highest levels of the state be with us on Thanksgiving, it's pretty exciting and it sends a great message to hungry and homebound seniors in our community that we care about them and are thinking about them on a day like today," Hauser said. 

Adam Hauser, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels, left, greets Gov. Greg Abbott, right, at the East Austin Meals on Wheels location on Thanksgiving Day.

As he prepared for his delivery route, volunteer Vijay Patel said giving residents even a small fragment of happiness gives him an inescapable sense of enjoyment.

"It's fulfilling to see those that are in need with the warm meals that we give them, and their smiles just melt us," he said.

Like Patel, volunteer Heather Yarmy said having a hand like this in the community is vital, especially in moments when so many are without food and the presence of their loved ones.

"It's easy to forget those folks, because we don't see them," Yarmy, 43, said. "I just think it's important to be connected to the community and to give back to the community. It's give and take, and this an opportunity for us to always give."

How to help

To volunteer and help fill open delivery routes, go to https://www.mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org/get-involved/volunteer