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Retired Teacher Loads Up Her Chevy to Deliver Food to Seniors

Mary Lustri continues her volunteer work in San Antonio while adhering to new safety guidelines


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Mary Lustri taught art in Texas public schools for 32 years and now volunteers for the San Antonio Food Bank. She has been an AARP member since 2015.
Caithlin McCullough

At 60 years old, I am a retired teacher who wants to give something back. A couple of years ago, just after I finished treatment for early-stage colon cancer, I found my way to my local food bank. Other volunteers like to pack boxes or work in the gardens, but I love loading up my Chevy and driving into the community to bring food to our clients who are 65 or older. I feel strongly about helping our seniors. We’ve all lived productive lives, and they deserve our care and attention.

spinner image mary lustri places a box of groceries on a porch
Lustri used to visit with clients in their homes; now she drops off groceries at a safe distance.
Caithlin McCullough

The coronavirus has changed many things, of course. The staff take our temperature when we show up, to make sure we’re not sick. I keep hand sanitizer in my car, and I’m careful to use it before and after each delivery. And with so many people laid off in our area, the demand for food is soaring. But the way we work is very much the same. I drive to people’s homes and deliver their groceries: a box of canned goods and a bag of fresh produce.

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We serve people from all backgrounds. Some households are multigenerational — there might be a grandmother, a mother and kids. There are lots of gentlemen on their own, many of them veterans.

Sometimes people ask, “Aren’t you scared?” Even before COVID-19, we delivered to some neighborhoods with high crime rates. But I’ve never been frightened. People are always so happy to see me. They tell me about their lives, their families, their pets. They used to invite me in and show me photographs. Some used to hug me. We can’t do that anymore. But I feel blessed.

We are in a national crisis. We need to help each other. What a difference there’d be if people would volunteer two hours every month. Of course, we should take care of ourselves and not risk making others sick. But if we’re taking the necessary precautions, why not help somebody?

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