Elected by the Meals on Wheels board in April, Hauser started volunteering with the organization—whose headquarters are located at 3227 E. Fifth St., Austin—in 1988. Since then, he has served on the board, was the board chair and is now the president of the agency.
A graduate from The University of Texas and an established lawyer, Hauser said he chose to leave his career as an attorney to lead the nonprofit.
“I’ve been connected with the organization for close to 30 years. I love the mission, I’m very passionate about what it does,” Hauser said. “This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Meals on Wheels at a glance
Meals on Wheels started as a grassroots organization in 1972 delivering home-cooked meals to 27 elderly persons. After 45 years of service, the nonprofit now delivers 3,000 free meals to homebound older adults and adults with disabilities each business day. The agency prepares and cooks all the food at their central kitchen and employs a registered dietician to ensure that all the meals are nutritious.
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Beyond bringing food, Meals on Wheels volunteers also offer free minor and major home repairs, in-home care, Alzheimer's respite care and pet care.
Dorothy Boyd has been a client with Meals on Wheels for nearly 20 years. The organization undertook a major repair job on her home that has not only made it more comfortable, but lowered her electric bill significantly, she said.
“They’ve done the bathroom, they’ve done the kitchen and they’ve done the outside,” Boyd said. “My electric bill dropped; it was never under $200 [a month] before.”
Hauser also hopes to continue growing a pilot project that introduces clients to technology to help them battle loneliness and depression, he said. He would also like to get Meals on Wheels involved in the healthcare system, he said.
The changing Austin landscape
Hauser, who still has routes and delivers food weekly to clients, said the clients—most of whom used to live in East Austin—are getting harder to reach as new development makes the neighborhoods unaffordable. The clients are being pushed to further outside the city’s boundaries by rising housing prices, Hauser said.
“There’s so much new development in East Austin and gentrification [that] a lot our clients can’t afford to live there anymore,” he said. “A lot of our routes—at least in the central area—are dropping in size because our clients are getting pushed out [of the area].”
Hermona Surita, one of Hauser’s clients, said she has lived in her East Austin house for 43 years. As new development continues, some of it just down the street from her house, Surita said the city of Austin has been pressuring her to sell her home to make way for newer buildings.
“I’ve been getting a lot of [sale offer] letters [from the city],” Surita said.
With older adults being the fastest-growing demographic in Austin, Hauser said he hopes to continue expanding Meals on Wheels to reach a greater area of people.
“I want our organization to be in a position to celebrate and honor older adults by providing services to them that enable them to live the rest of their lives with dignity and independence,” Hauser said.