Emily’s Meals is an organization dedicated to feeding 40 people every day. And it all started with the innocent question of a 6-year-old girl.
Emily and her father Rick Aguirre went to the grocery store one normal afternoon. As they were leaving, Emily saw her first homeless person. Her dad took this moment to teach her about the act of charity, so they bought a meal and gave it to the homeless man. Emily then looked over and asked her dad, “What can we do?”
They went home and thought Emily would soon move on, as most 6-year-old kids do. What they didn’t realize though, was that this small lesson had truly stuck. She continued asking how they could help and wanted to know what could be done to help those people that didn’t have the basics.
“I really couldn’t believe that someone could be homeless. I wanted to do anything I could to try and help them,” said Emily.
This was happening right around the time of Lent, so the family took on a Lenten project. They would feed 40 homeless people in 40 days. Little did they know, their small family project would soon grow into an operation that now feeds 40 people almost every day of the year.
Through their small project, they realized that there were so many more people in need, and that there was so much more that they could do with just a little effort. As their friends and family heard what they were doing, more and more people wanted to help. So Emily’s Meals was born.
Food & So Much More
Although the primary focus is always about the food, Emily’s Meals has grown to encompass so much more than that. Coni Aguirre, Emily’s mother, said, “We try to help these people as our friends. We get to know them, we provide what we can, and we work to help them get back on their feet.”
In doing that, Emily’s Meals has provided not just food, but also clothing, toiletries and other basic necessities. Through the help of a generous donor, they have also been able to build a custom shower trailer. This trailer gives the opportunity for a nice shower and clean change of clothes.
In addition to daily necessities, Coni and Rick, along with several of the other volunteers, work with local homeless advocates and organizations to help these people get back on their feet. They have helped some find housing and helped others find jobs.
Coni said, “We don’t ask any questions, we don’t pressure, we don’t try to solve their problems and most of all we don’t judge. We just offer a meal and an ear.”
As more people began to learn about Emily’s Meals, it became apparent that there was more opportunity to provide even more if people were willing. A local women’s group from First United Methodist Church in McAllen began a recycled mat project. They used plastic shopping bags and wove them together to create a sleeping mat that was sturdy, reusable and provided a bit of comfort on the streets.
Peggy Trom spearheaded this initiative and said about its beginning, “We had Boy Scout troops, Girl Scout troops, people from our church, people from Emily’s Meals … just a ton of volunteers. We all came together to learn how to make these with the goal of making one for every one of our homeless friends.”
After spending months weaving and completing sleeping mats, Trom soon realized that her group could do even more. “We told Emily’s Meals that we were committing to making meals for November and December 2017. After that we would regroup and decide if we wanted to move forward. Well, that was two years ago and we’re still going strong!”
A core group of about eight, along with several more volunteers, has become a regular on the Emily’s Meal calendar. They work to cook and pack meals and deliver them three times a month.
Trom’s FUMC group is just one of the many groups that come together to keep the Emily’s Meals calendar fully booked each and every month.
Emily says that she would love to be able to open a shelter of her own someday soon. She envisions a building which can serve as a place where people can go to get the help and services they need. A place where they can sleep, eat, take a shower and get whatever other help they may be in search of.
The family says that the primary focus of Emily’s Meals, which is to feed 40 people each and every day, is never going to change. Coni says, “You know that meal made a difference. You know that meal means the world to them. Deep down, that’s what we were meant to do … to feed the homeless.”