by KIM HILSENBECK
Every weekday, Delia Bernal takes the already prepared food that comes to her office and puts together about 20 meals in little foil trays; those are tied up in a plastic shopping bag. Bernal then puts the finished trays and bags in a cooler.
Today the tray contained chicken salad, pasta salad, carrots, Jello and milk – the latter two bundled together in small plastic bags.
Four coolers were waiting in the corner of her tiny office inside the historic Kyle courthouse at the corner of Center Street and Burleson Road.
Then volunteers like Mary Fleming and Janie Vasquez pick up the coolers and deliver them to senior citizens in the Meals on Wheels program here in Kyle.
Some new, younger faces arrived around 11 a.m. to volunteer. Jen Hatmaker and her sons, Ben, 8, and Caleb, 10, drove over from Buda to help get the meals out to the 10 or so names on the list in south Kyle. Another volunteer will take the north side route.
Ben was a little shy about talking at first, but flashed a big smile, his dark eyes brimming with excitement. What does he think the people who receive the meals will say?
“I think the people will be happy to get them,” Ben said quietly.
His brother, not quite as shy, chimed in.
“I think they will be grateful that someone is helping them,” said Caleb.
Both are students at Elm Grove Elementary.
Each boy carried a cooler to their mom’s SUV and loaded them in the back.
They drove over to Sledge Street and turned left, winding around through the oldest section of Kyle. When they arrived at the first stop, Caleb and Ben bolted out of the SUV and went to help their mom pull out the items for delivery.
Ben got to carry the meal; Caleb brought the bag of milk and Jello.
Albert Mangapora Jr., 68, was already at his front door, awaiting their arrival with a smile on his face, weathered with his more than 40 years in the Texas sun.
Originally from Michigan, Mangapora has lived in Kyle for the past seven years.
“My son lives here in town,” Mangapora said, “I talk to him almost every day.”
He also has daughters, one in Marble Falls, the other in Georgetown.
Of the Meals on Wheels program, Mangapora said it’s very helpful to him.
“It fills in for me,” he said. “I could use a little more,” Mangapora said with a laugh.
He said Bernal, the site manager for the Kyle Meals on Wheels program, treats him well.
“Sometimes if there is enough she gives me a little extra,” Mangapora said.
Ben had so many questions for Mangapora: “What was your job?” “When is your birthday?”
Turns out Ben and Mangapora are both August babies.
Hatmaker and Mangapora talked about the rain, last year’s drought, and growing a garden in this Central Texas heat. His tomatoes and peppers didn’t make it.
During the few minutes exchanging pleasantries with the Hatmakers, Mangapora kept looking down at the food, perhaps anticipating his lunch or thinking about the cool, jiggly dessert that awaited him.
The Hatmakers said their goodbyes and wished Mangapora well. They were off to deliver the next meal.
Mangapora may not see them again tomorrow, but he will be at the door waiting for the kindness of a Meals on Wheels volunteer to bring him that little bit of food that helps get him through the week.
To volunteer for the Kyle Meals on Wheels, contact Combined Community Action at 1-800-688-9065.