For more than two decades, a 72-year-old cafeteria worker has been serving meals with a side of love at Memorial High School in McAllen.

Maria Gonzalez starts her day at 5 a.m. and is done by 3 p.m., but no matter what is thrown her way, she always shows up with a smile. 

Nominated for her acts of kindness by McAllen ISD, her supervisor says she’s a stand out.

“The kids love her. They give her a hug, even though they don’t know her name sometimes, but they’ll call her mom,” said Lorie Lopez, Food Service Manager at Memorial High School. “They’ll hug her and greet her. She’ll greet everybody, always with a smile.”

That smile is clear as we watched her serve meals to dozens of kids. 

“I love all my kids, Gonzalez said. “They always come with me and say ‘Mom, I need help with this. Where do I go?”

Once her job is done, Gonzalez says she cares for her husband and three grandchildren. Despite her many years of working, she says she doesn’t have plans to slow down anytime soon.

Gonzalez added, “I love all my work. I love it. I don’t know when I’m going to stop. Probably when I’m going to be 100.”

If you have someone you would like to highlight for their acts of kindness in our ‘Hometown Heroes’ segment, email Nicole Hickl at or contact her through Facebook.