“Houston is my everything,” says Donna Garcia. She grew up in this city, raised her three sons here, and now at age 62 she is blessed to have six grandchildren who live in the greater Houston area.
But despite her love for her hometown, life has not always been easy for Donna. A difficult marriage led to divorce. A nearly 30-year career of office work ended with a medical disability. And then came Hurricane Harvey.
Donna was living in a rental home on the east side of Houston when the storm struck. Soon the water in her neighborhood was so high that it covered cars and trucks—and began rising into her home. A young man came by with an inflatable swimming pool but couldn’t find the person he was looking for, so he asked Donna and her oldest son if they needed help.
The two men used the pool to pull Donna through the floodwaters to dry land. From there, SWAT vehicles and dump trucks transported her, along with other flood victims, to a local high school to ride out the hurricane. When she was finally able to go back and check on her home, everything had been destroyed.
“It was a very scary situation,” Donna recalls. “Everything we lost was material things, but you still think of all the things that were very personal and important to you.” Among those precious items were a portion of her late father’s ashes.
Today, Donna is back in the neighborhood she loves, living in a simple apartment she shares with her oldest son. And just as the kindness of strangers helped her survive the storm, it is continuing to provide practical help each day—not through inflatable pools or dump trucks, but through Meals on Wheels.
Every weekday, a Meals on Wheels driver from Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston knocks on Donna’s door with a fresh, hot, nutritious meal. On Wednesdays extra meals are included to keep in her freezer for the weekend, as well as a shopping bag filled with nutritious snacks and treats to enjoy throughout the week.
“The meals are good,” says Donna. “It’s all great and it all gets eaten.” Some of the food even helps build special memories, such as the little cartons of milk she and her 11-year-old grandson use to make pancakes on the weekend.
Donna is one of approximately 4,000 seniors, disabled, and veteran clients in the greater Houston area who receive the gift of Meals on Wheels from Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston. And just as important as the food for her body is the refreshment it provides for her spirit.
One of her drivers, Ms. Norma, “meant the world to me,” Donna says. “If I didn’t answer my gate, she’d call and make sure I was okay. She was very sweet, very lovable. She had her daughter with her sometimes, and they always gave me a little hug and kiss when they left.”
Donna is diabetic and has a variety of other health issues including dizziness, knee problems, and pain in her back. She also had to have the remaining four toes on her foot amputated due to an infection she contracted from the flood waters. So she is extremely grateful for the help she receives from Meals on Wheels.
“I love Meals on Wheels. They’re life-savers, they really are,” she says. “I feel like I could call them for anything, even if it wasn’t pertaining to food. It’s very touching that people are really there to help.”