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Turning Grief into Giving

Meals on Wheels Development Director shares her story

For Carrie Watkins, Thanksgiving was always a holiday filled with warm memories of being with her family.  

That changed in 2006, when her grandfather, a World War II veteran who served at Pearl Harbor the day of the attack in 1941, died after a fall. She’d just had twins.  

Inspired by her grandparents’ love of delivering meals out of their church, she decided to start hosting a Thanksgiving Day food drive with her friends that included a light mimosa brunch and a chance to raise a glass to a man who meant so much to her. 

The annual event became known as GrandBob’s Gobblers. After a few years, a friend who attended the event suggested to Watkins, who was then a stay-at-home parent whose children were in elementary school, that she interview for the board of directors at what was then the Montgomery County Committee on Aging.

Watkins, who had previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry, had been doing a lot of volunteer work in the community, where she used her sales experience to host fundraising events. 

 Those skills – and her passion for feeding community members in need – landed her a seat on the board in 2015. A year later, she took a full-time position as development director, where she remains today.

During her eight years with the organization, the non-profit, which celebrates 50 years this year, took on the Meals on Wheels name, moved into a new commercial kitchen and has more than doubled the number of meals it serves each week. 

 At the beginning of the pandemic, there were more than 600 clients who received meals each weekend and about 450 people on the waiting list.  

“We were in this tiny kitchen that had one oven and within 24 hours had to move to a new kitchen we’d leased,” she said. “We were moving everything in our cars. It was so hectic.”

Demand for their meals skyrocketed overnight, and with COVID restrictions in place, they couldn’t rely on volunteers to deliver the food. “We took our staff and board members, and we did it all. We cooked it all; we had board members driving our vans. I was chopping carrots in
the kitchen. Our main goal was to get food in clients’ hands. They were so scared.”

Three years later, they are nearing 1,000 clients with just a few dozen waiting for placement on a delivery route.  

In addition to these hot meals – delivered by some 300 volunteer drivers – Meals on Wheels Montgomery County also provides the food to five congregate dining locations, where older community members come together for hot meals and enrichment activities five days a week.  Watkins said the waiting list will never completely go away, especially with the rate at which Baby Boomers are retiring. “Texas is one of the biggest places where people are retiring,” she said. “We’ll all be in that place one day.”  

Because Montgomery County doesn’t have public transportation, Meals on Wheels also offers rides for people to get to doctors’ appointments and even the grocery store. 

 “Our rides are used for things like dialysis three times a week that they wouldn’t be able to make otherwise,” Watkins said. “Transportation is a critical piece of the puzzle.”

The organization continues to expand its programs thanks to increased funding through events,  such as the popular annual Great Pumpkin Shoot in October, one of several community outreach activities that Watkins oversees. Supporters are already looking forward to the spring events: a 5K/10K race called Miles for Meals and A Night in Nashville,  their biggest fundraiser of the year, which is taking place on April 18 at Sawyer Park Icehouse.

MOWMC provides everything from pet food and hurricane boxes to incontinence items and protein shakes, such as Ensure, to help meet clients’ ever-changing needs. Seniors in the program also get birthday bags, which Watkins said is something that often makes both clients and volunteers emotional. 

She knows that one day, God willing, she’ll be the age of her clients now. When she thinks about getting older, she thinks about her late grandparents and the legacy of community service they left. She said she hopes her work inspires her children – and their children – to think about what their neighbors need.

“We’ve all felt what social isolation is like, so since the pandemic, we’ve tried to take a bigger view of what seniors need to feel connected and cared for,” Watkins said.

About the author: Addie Broyles is an Austin-based writer – and longtime Meals on Wheels volunteer – who writes about parenting, history, travel and ancestry at

“He made life so much better, so every Thanksgiving that rolled around, I was sad,” she said. “I thought, I’ve got to turn this around.”

  • Carrie Watkins and "GrandBob" started the tradition of "GrandBob's Gobblers"