Interfaith Ministries’ Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston and Galveston County program provides home-delivered meals to disabled adults and homebound clients over 60. The program also delivers weekend meals and a week’s worth of breakfast to over 1,100 of our most frail and isolated clients. This nutritional support helps people stay independent and in their own homes. Sign up by contacting us at 713-533-4978.
Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston and Galveston County is able to serve clients with the help of partners like Harris County Area Agency on Aging, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Managed Care Organizations serving Southeast Texas. In conjunction with the Harris County Community Services Department, IM reaches out to the remote areas of Harris County, serving elders across the county. IM also partners with organizations in Liberty and Montgomery Counties to deliver meals.
Additionally, the aniMeals on Wheels program, founded in 2007, delivers pet food to IM’s Meals on Wheels clients so they not feel compelled to share their limited food and resources with their furry friends. IM collects donated pet food that volunteers deliver each month to clients. Learn more about aniMeals on Wheels.
With every story she tells, Jerlee Owens reveals another hint at the extraordinary life she has lived.
At 92 years of age, Jerlee’s diverse resume includes titles like Master Gardener, X-Ray Technician, Sunday School Teacher, exemplary American Cancer Society Volunteer and much more. Her home is filled with plaques and certificatesrecognizing the impact she has made on her community. Yet she lives and loves with great humility, warmth, and a wonderful sense of humor.
Jerlee was born in the 1920’s in Fort Bend County, on a creek that is now part of the George Ranch Historical Park.
“We had such a happy family,” Jerlee recalls. “Three boys and three girls. We were very poor, but we were rich. My mother was a woman of wisdom and she could take anything and make a meal. She would sew, she would quilt, she would cook, and I never went hungry.”
The youngest of six children, Jerlee developed a love of gardening at a young age by watching and working alongside her mother.
“My mother had a personal garden,” Jerlee says. “She would let me put a little garden in the corner of her big garden. Whatever she would plant in her garden, she’d give me seeds to plant in my garden.”
In 1944, during World War II, Jerlee dropped out of high school to take a wartime job in a cotton shed. She married at 18 years of age and had a son, but when he was old enough to attend school, she went back to Central High School in Galveston, finished her studies and graduated.
In 1947 she moved from Galveston to Texas City. She joined the newly organized Progressive Baptist Church in 1948, and over the years served as an usher, Sunday School teacher, and chaperone for youth trips around the United States. Texas City has been her home for more than 70 years now — and you’ll still find her serving as an usher at Progressive Baptist Church, where she is the only living, active member from the church’s founding days.
In her 30s, Jerlee met the love of her life — Lawrence Owens. He had served in the Army during World War II, and went on to have a 40-year career with Union Carbide. The couple dreamed of building a home, and with the help of Lawrence’s employer, they did. Little by little they built their home — and the gardens that went with it.
There were pecan, fig, pear, and peach trees, vegetables, flowers and more. Jerlee stopped working to focus on the garden and managing their home.
“I was busy,” Jerlee says. “That’s when we got the deep freezer from Sears Roebuck. I learned how to freeze things instead of putting them in jars and cans. So while Lawrence was paying house notes, I was taking care of business. That’s all he had to do was go to work, and I took care of the rest. And you can believe we came out victorious.”
In 1982, Jerlee completed her studies to be a certified Master Gardener. Since then she has been recognized numerous times for her work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award presented in 2016 by the Galveston County Master Gardener Program.
But Jerlee’s life has seen difficult days as well. Her only son died in 1983 at the age of 39, six months after being diagnosed with cancer. Many years later, Lawrence had a stroke and then a heart attack; shortly after that, Jerlee needed surgeries on her knee and her spine.
“That’s when they started us on Meals on Wheels,” Jerlee says, “and thank the Lord they did.”
Lawrence passed away in 2012, just two days after their 50th anniversary. “We were together a long time,” Jerlee says. “Wasn’t too long, though. I miss the old boy.”
Jerlee lives alone now, and moving around her home can be difficult since she has two types of arthritis as well as fibromyalgia. So she is very grateful for the support provided by Meals on Wheels.
“I have to care for myself, and sometimes I’m just worn out,” she says, explaining that she monitors her own vital signs for the medications she takes. “When I get Meals on Wheels that means I can stay in my home and have warm meals, or just put it in the microwave. That means a lot.”
Jerlee has learned how to add her own special touches to the meals, so they taste just the way she likes them. Sometimes she’ll turn a chicken breast and vegetables into a tasty soup; other days she adds cheese and a few drops of hot sauce to the spaghetti and meatballs. “That sounds like my cooking,” she says with a grin.
And she is especially grateful for people like Jesse, the driver who delivers her meals.
“Jesse is the man,” Jerlee says. “It was pouring down rain, lighting and thundering, and Jesse was here with water dripping off of him, handing me a meal. And he was cheerful about it! That’s something. That is sacrifice, and I appreciate it.”
“Thank you for Meals on Wheels,” she concludes. “I enjoy it, and it means a lot.”