Out of all the volunteer opportunities at the Central Texas Food Bank, Diana Houston’s favorite is putting food in the hands of veterans in need at the Veteran Affairs Mobile Food Pantry distribution.
Even though she began volunteering at the Food Bank’s product recovery warehouse about three times a week after retiring, in addition to volunteering at mobile food pantries, the VA distribution holds a special place in her heart.
“There is such a sense of comradery among them and it’s one of the happiest or most congenial wait lines you could ever hope to imagine because these veterans are sharing stories, their wives are often rolling their eyes and it’s just a fun place to work,” Diana said. “I think it’s great. This is my favorite mobile pantry.”
The past few months have been difficult for Diana to continue with all her volunteer service. Her time has been spent on constant trips to the VA in Temple and Austin, Texas, to help care for her brother with a terminal illness.
Though she wasn’t able to volunteer as often as she used to, she never missed the mobile pantry at the VA down the street from the Food Bank.
“I think he was delighted that I’d say, 'well, I’ll see you later I’m going to the VA clinic to do the mobile pantry,'” Diana said.
Though her brother was too ill to go out to the distribution, when he needed a little extra help Diana would pick up food for him while she was at the site volunteering.
“It was a help. He was overwhelmed after just a few months and very much because he was in declining health at that time,” Diana said. “But it was a help. One of the staples we seemed to have had are frozen blueberries and my goodness he loved those frozen blueberries.”
Her brother has since passed and volunteering at the VA Mobile Pantry means more to her than ever before.
“It’s wonderful. I really look at this as a tribute to my brother who used the clinic near the hospital in Temple and I think that it has helped in that overall grieving process, having just lost him in the last few months,” Diana said.
As she volunteers and looks out into the crowd of veterans, she is reminded of her brother and the rest of her family — her husband, a Navy veteran, her son and nephew currently serving in the Navy and two of her brothers, Marine veterans.
“I have learned, especially as my brothers have grown older, how much their service actually meant to them and truly how proud they were to have served,” Diana said. “There are many veterans who are in great need of almost any type of assistance that they can get. What can be more important than making sure that they are fed and have food?”