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Volunteerism is alive and well at TCEQ

Dec. 10, 2019 – TCEQ employees give back to their community

TCEQ volunteers who deliver meals on Fridays hold up signs stating why they volunteer. Left to right—back row: Patricia Wise, Jessica Uramkin, Ivan Wong, Maithi Nguyen, and Jeff McEntire; front row: Mary McKelvy and Gayle Stewart.
TCEQ volunteers who deliver meals on Fridays hold up signs stating why they volunteer. Left to right—back row: Patricia Wise, Jessica Uramkin, Ivan Wong, Maithi Nguyen, and Jeff McEntire; front row: Mary McKelvy and Gayle Stewart.

By Marty Otero, TCEQ Media Relations

From crayon and food drives to organized clean-ups in Walnut Creek, the spirit of giving is alive and well at TCEQ—not just every once in a while, but all year long.

TCEQ employees not only respond quickly when environmental incidents happen or they need to enforce a violation that affects the environment and public health, but they truly step up to the plate when it comes to giving back to their community and helping their fellow neighbors. Over the years, TCEQ employees have developed an outstanding reputation for volunteerism, especially through the Meals on Wheels program.

Several days a week, a group of employees at TCEQ spend their lunch time delivering meals for the Meals on Wheels program. Some of these volunteers have been participating for nearly 25 years.

For Maithi Nguyen, who has been a volunteer for roughly 23 years, simply seeing a smile on the face of the clients she serves makes it well worth it. She remembers one client that was always so happy to see her as she opened the door. “She would greet us like we were her special guests. It is a blessing to serve and engage with the elders in our community through the program.”

Relative newcomer Mary McKelvy agrees, saying, “I just enjoy helping people. I feel like I am making a small contribution by bringing some happiness to these folks and by greeting them by name and bringing them a meal. People are always very appreciative."

Kanchan Raina, who has been a volunteer for more than ten years, remembers one client in particular who really impacted her. After several years of delivering meals to a woman on her route, Raina witnessed the client experience the loss of her son while also adjusting to being confined to a wheelchair.

C. Wong (left) and Rama Nittala (right) out making Meals on Wheels deliveries.
C. Wong (left) and Rama Nittala (right) out making Meals on Wheels deliveries.

“No matter what she was facing, I always saw the lady’s faith and courage shine through. When I deliver her meals, I give her a hug and that hug uplifts us both,” she states.

Gayle Stewart, who helps organize routes and new volunteers for the Meals on Wheels program at TCEQ, also remembers a particular client of hers.

Stewart shares, “I’ll never forget delivering to a client who needed medical care, she didn’t want us to call anyone because she feared her family would put her in ‘a home.’ Well, after that day, she was unfortunately no longer listed on our route.” But that wasn’t the end of that story. About a year later, Stewart was volunteering at a local nursing home during the Christmas holidays, when she was reunited with the same woman.

“It was a wonderful surprise to see her strolling up the hall. She looked wonderful,” she states. “She was very happy with her new home and her new friends. It was great. I was glad things had worked out for her and she was in a better place where she was receiving the care she needed.”

Thursday volunteers hold up their reasons for giving their time. Left to right-back row: Chuhua Tian, Erik Underkofler, Chance Goodin, and William Lara; front row: Candice Wong and Kanchan Raina.
Thursday volunteers hold up their reasons for giving their time. Left to right—back row: Chuhua Tian, Erik Underkofler, Chance Goodin, and William Lara; front row: Candice Wong and Kanchan Raina.

She adds, “I am always reminded of how blessed we are to be able to participate in this program. It gives me a warm feeling and a pretty awesome sense of gratitude as I go out and deliver a meal to someone who truly needs it. Most of these clients are homebound and elderly and often don’t interact with too many people. Our visits often make a very long day livable.”

Stewart comments that the clients they serve are very thankful. They typically greet the volunteers with a warm smile and are happy someone has knocked on their doors.

Stewart also feels that “our clients remind us of what we take for granted in our daily lives. Some don’t see anyone else, they have no family, or are unable to leave their residence. Unfortunately, some are battling an illness or recovering from an injury. It’s actually a win-win because we take these folks some nourishment and some human contact and we get the satisfaction of knowing that in some way we are making a difference.”

Commissioner Emily Lindley (left), a long time volunteer at Meals on Wheels, loads her cooler with meals for her route.
Commissioner Emily Lindley (left), a long time volunteer at Meals on Wheels, loads her cooler with meals for her route.

For Chance Goodin, “it’s more than just giving back.” He points out that in addition to the joy he feels at the opportunity to serve others, his routes give him time to build friendships with his co-workers and clients outside of TCEQ. He adds, “every Meals on Wheels experience reminds me of how blessed I am.” Goodin is a substitute driver out of St. Mark UMC and when he delivers meals, he serves the neighborhoods surrounding TCEQ Headquarters.

TCEQ Commissioner Emily Lindley also volunteers delivering meals. She states, “for me, the Meals on Wheels program is a fulfilling way to volunteer and serve others in our community. I am reminded every week what a needed service the Meals on Wheels program is to so many people. There are so many people in our community who do not have the means to grocery shop or cook for themselves and knowing I can contribute to them receiving at least one healthy nutritious meal a day is very rewarding.”

There are currently nearly 30 Meals on Wheels volunteers from TCEQ. Their dedication to serving the community is seen and appreciated.

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All photos TCEQ.