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AARP Texas 2023 Andrus Award Recipients Announced

At least once a month, and every month for 31 years, four men have planned, prepared and served delicious, hot and healthy meals for residents of North Texas housing centers for people living with HIV/AIDS.

“The primary motivation was that we felt it was important to give back. We felt that there was a need that we could fill. We enjoy cooking, and it is something we can give,” said one of the men, Ray Bronner.

The group – all now-retired former technology workers -- got the idea of preparing the meals from friends who started a nearby supper club. Soon after, they heard about a care center for people who are homeless and living with HIV, the Samaritan House, that would open in Fort Worth. On its first night, the men served meals to its four residents. Eventually, there would be 50 residents to feed – and they provided monthly meals for the next 20 years.

For the last 11 years, Bronner, Dennis O’Reilly, Russ Simon, and Michael Clark – affectionately named “The Grub Club” -- have provided nutritious and well-balanced meals to residents of the Ewing Center, a facility associated with AIDS Services of Dallas, which provides housing and support services for low income and homeless individuals and families living with or impacted by HIV/AIDS.

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Pictured from left to right are: Michael Clark, Russ Simon, Ray Bronner and Dennis O'Reilly. Bronner and O'Reilly are recipients of the AARP Texas 2023 Andrus Award for Community Service.

Bronner and O’Reilly, who are married to one another, are recipients of the AARP Texas 2023 Andrus Award for Community Service. AARP Texas gives the award to individuals who demonstrate outstanding devotion to community service and volunteerism.

The award is named after AARP’s founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, and honors age 50-plus Texans who use their experience, talent, and skills to bring fulfillment to enrich the lives of their community members.

This year, AARP Texas has also named Nancy Walker of Austin the runner-up recipient of the Andrus Award.

Walker gives presentations about a wide variety of end-of-life decisions. She is also the executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Central Texas, one of three volunteer-run funeral consumer groups in Texas that publish surveys on funeral service prices to help people comparison shop and plan.

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Nancy Walker

Foremost, Walker urges people to talk about end-of-life matters early on – whether it’s burial preferences, advance directives and hospital care or financial matters.

“Having these conversations before the decision must be made and communicated is so important,” she said. “Even if the family resists, when the time comes, it’s a blessing to have had these conversations. And then, the family members eventually come to realize, `Thank god, we know what (our loved one) wanted.’”

Walker also cautions people about buying pre-paid funeral contracts. Her advice is to only open a payable-upon-death account with a deposit of enough funds to have the arrangements one wants. “In other words,” she said, “the money never leaves your hands.”

AARP Texas Director Tina Tran said there are commonalities among the 2023 Andrus Award recipients -- a compassion for others and a desire to contribute to the betterment of their communities.

“These amazing people are dedicated volunteers who are advocating tirelessly for others,” said Tran. “AARP Texas applauds their activism and is excited to shine a light on their efforts to make a positive difference in the lives around them.”

The award recipients will be presented with trophies, and AARP will make a financial donation to a non-profit organization of their choice.

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