For Dallas native, Linda Hampton, an early retirement meant more time to give back to the community she calls home.

Volunteer Linda Hampton stands to teach a Cooking Well with diabetes class.
Linda Hampton teaches a Cooking Well With Diabetes class as a part of her volunteering duties with the Texas Master Wellness program of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. (Courtesy photo)

With a passion for service and desire to teach those around her how to live and eat healthier, Hampton found a home in her volunteer work with the Texas Master Wellness program offered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“My prior business of owning a catering company has certainly spilled over into the enjoyment of empowering individuals to prepare easy and healthy meals at home,” said Hampton.

The Texas Master Wellness program focuses on the high-priority issue of helping Texans improve their health. To learn more about her experience volunteering, we sat down with Hampton to ask her about her role and passion for the program.

Q: How did you begin volunteering with Texas Master Wellness? What drew you to it?

A: Retirement came early for me in 2003. Being a workaholic is not easy to overcome, so I explored various volunteering opportunities in my community before I became involved with Texas Master Wellness.

Initially, I began volunteering at a hospital in the surgery department. I did that for five years. Desiring a more outdoors opportunity, I became a Dallas Arboretum volunteer in 2004 and still love my time there. I became a Master Naturalist, jointly sponsored by AgriLife Extension and Texas Parks and Wildlife, in 2009 and enjoy the program overall in addition to my involvement as part of the Texas Stream Team.

During a Master Naturalist volunteer opportunity, an AgriLife Extension agent in Dallas County told me about Master Wellness. She thought it might be a good fit, and 12 years later, I have genuinely enjoyed every minute of sharing research-based information. The programs provided through Texas A&M AgriLife give me confidence that I am sharing truthful and helpful information.

I started volunteering with Texas Master Wellness in 2011. I think my culinary background drew me into Master Wellness along with my prior experience of owning a catering company. I have an interest in serving healthy food and helping guide people to make healthy choices. Some of these foods may not be what they are used to but can be prepared in a way that is pleasing to them.

Q: What do you do as a volunteer with Texas Master Wellness?

A: I volunteer six days a week. I like to stay busy and be out, so working that many days a week doesn’t bother me. Aside from creek water testing with the Texas Stream Team, most years the main time I spend volunteering is filled with about 400 hours of sharing Cooking Well with Diabetes and several of the health and wellness programs.

I have worked with almost all the wellness programs during my time volunteering with Texas Master Wellness. I have been able to work with the children’s program, Learn, Grow, Eat and Go!, the Health Talk Express as well as the Master of Memory program that is very popular, and I feel like people really get a lot out of.

Q: What is your favorite aspect or program within Texas Master Wellness?

A: Master Wellness has provided an opportunity to fill in gaps since a volunteer can choose their activities from a large array of programs. After participating in many programs and health fairs, I came to really enjoy and appreciate the Master of Memory program. It is a six-week program that probes deep into how memories are formed and ways to enhance brain function. Participants love the knowledge it provides, and it is a fun class.

Cooking Well with Diabetes is another favorite because there is so little public information for people diagnosed with diabetes, people who are pre-diabetic or are taking care of someone with the condition. The program gives needed information on realizing what a carb, fat or protein is and the amounts needed for healthy eating. The MyPlate method is so simple. The cooking portion of the class helps participants understand how modifications may help manage diabetes. 

I feel that people appreciate the information I can give them because they often feel that they don’t know where to start or how to eat better with their diagnoses. All my volunteer work ties in together and it has opened my eyes to what is needed to continue to help people.

I also favor the professionalism of the organization. I enjoy the fact that when I reach out to people within each program, I know that the information they are receiving is based in research. I can know that I am giving accurate information in my classes, which I am quick to point out.

Q: What do you do when you’re not volunteering?

A: When not volunteering, my husband and I love our country life and share the honey from our 12 beehives.

About five years ago, I started my beehives as a hobby, but it has now turned into another volunteer opportunity with Texas Master Naturalist. I get to take observation hives to Texas 4-H events, local schools and the Dallas Arboretum.

We take the hives and teach the public about honeybees. Bees are so fascinating, and we get to tell people about their community and how they work.

Q: What is your favorite healthy living meal?

A: One of my favorite recipes is summer veggies with bow-tie pasta. The meal showcases how versatile it can be by cleaning out the needed veggies in the fridge and adding a small amount of pasta. 

Spinach quesadillas is also a class program favorite for kiddos and seniors. It is easy and can be made healthy with whole grain tortillas and spinach. I like to point out that sodium watchers may substitute fresh tomatoes instead of salsa.

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