The Aguirre family of McAllen, Texas, who work together to help those who are homeless in their community, was voted the 2019 Disney and Points of Light Volunteer Family of the Year!
"Good Morning America" announced the five incredibly deserving families who were named finalists for the volunteer work making a difference in their communities. Thousands across the country were nominated by nonprofits, schools and others who are shining examples of volunteerism.
We asked Americans to vote for their favorite family to receive a dream vacation to Walt Disney World, where they will be the guests of honor at a special event to celebrate Family Volunteer Day, and $10,000 for their nonprofit or nominating organization to continue their important work in the community, and the Aguirres came out on top.
How the Aguirres started volunteering
Nominated by the Juan Diego Academy, the Aguirres have made volunteering a family affair for nearly five years. They started helping others in their community after their then-6-year-old-daughter, Emily, noticed a homeless person for the first time outside their local grocery store.
Emily had lots of questions about the man, and after her father, Ricardo, explained that he did not have a home and lived on the streets, she asked if they could give him some food, since he looked hungry.
So they did just that, purchasing a dozen tamales and a cup of coffee for the stranger, who appreciated the token of kindness.
That week, the Aguirres, who are Catholic, decided that instead of giving up something for Lent, as they normally did, they would instead feed a homeless person every day for the next 40 days.
Since then, they've created Emily's Meals, a volunteer team that feeds 40 people every day, rain or shine. They also link those who are homeless to numerous local health, social service agencies, and even coordinate pet care.
The Aguirre family also has a trailer, where the people they help can take showers and get access to toiletries.
Volunteering runs in the Aguirre family. For Ricardo, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, his family would deliver meals to feed the hungry. It's been a priority for him since he was young, and now that he has his own family, he wants to demonstrate how important volunteering is.
He and his wife met while volunteering, and now his daughters also volunteer at their schools when they can.
"Volunteering has brought us close together, especially with the girls. We look forward to feeding the homeless together every week," they said.
A 'GMA' surprise
To celebrate their win, the Aguirres were surprised by Mickey Mouse at their home in McAllen, Texas, along with Natalye Paquin, the president and CEO of Points of Light.
Emily told "GMA" she felt "exhilarated" to see all of this as a result of the volunteer project that she started five years ago.
The Aguirre family received $10,000 as well as $10,000 toward Emily's Meals.
"When families volunteer together it strengthens family and it strengthens their connection to their communities," Paquin said.
All five families will be going to Disney World, and the other four nominated families will get $5,000 to their respective charities.
Points of Light
You can see more stories of citizens stepping up to serve their communities on the Points of Light blog.
Visit Points of Light to find a volunteer opportunity near you or learn about one of our nonprofit affiliates around the globe. Nonprofits and schools in the U.S. can also join the Disney Family Volunteering Reward Program to earn Disney Parks tickets by hosting volunteer family events.
Disney is the parent company of ABC News and "Good Morning America."