SAN ANTONIO -- The holiday season is a time when there is a lot of focus on giving, but for one local organization giving is year-round.
In just the last year Meals on Wheels delivered close to a million meals to seniors in the San Antonio area who may have otherwise gone without.
The organization runs mainly on volunteers and, in many cases, it costs them to deliver those meals.
Long before the meals get to the homes, they begin at the Christian Senior Services kitchen. Staff members start every morning about 4:00 a.m.
"A lot of times it's like that kind of comfort food. And you think about the stuff that made you feel good as a kid," said Meals on Wheels’ Arianna Barbour.
The meals are made to strict nutritional guidelines. They are packaged, then kept hot in huge warmers until the more than 150 volunteers per day begin to show up.
Volunteers load the meals into large coolers, load the coolers into their own cars and then drive more than 160 routes every day to deliver between 32 and 3,800 meals.
"Often times our volunteers say it changed their life more than they expected, that opportunity to knock on our door and make the difference in that seniors day," Barbour said.
There are hundreds of volunteers who deliver meals, but not everyone can deliver every day. Which is why Barbour said Meals on Wheels could easily use another 1000 drivers.
“You can have neighbors who make sure the grass gets cut, but who's going to be actually able to take the time to cook that person a meal, with as busy as people seem to be these days? ” said Barbour. “That's why all we're asking for is that hour of your lunchtime to come out and volunteer and spend time with our seniors."
Sisters Mary Casanova and Aleta Vasquez are lucky, they have each other.
Aleta still cooks occasionally, but they qualify for meals on wheels and really appreciate it.
"They come in all weather, poor things. And I always tell them we are so satisfied with your service because they do volunteer work," said Vasquez.
Without the volunteers, it would be impossible to deliver the meals, much less prepare them. Even with the help, they have Barbour said they still have more than 1,000 seniors who qualify for the service.
They just don't have enough help to get to them
"The more volunteers we have, the more seniors we can reach, the more time each senior can get with that person who's making that connection, delivering more than that meal, having that friendly visit, giving them a little bit of a safety check because they're actually having someone check on them every day when we deliver a meal, versus no one ever knocking on their door," she said.
Barbour said if you can volunteer just a few hours one day a month it can make all the difference in the world to a lot of seniors.