LAS VEGAS - Muriel Dufendach commands a lot of respect.
She runs the Friends in the Desert Foundation, a charitable organization that serves hot meals to the homeless. Dufendach and her team of volunteers also provide basic toiletry items, referrals and bus transportation.
She's on a first-name basis with everyone who walks through the doors.
"Half the homeless in town call me Mom," she said. "That's fine. I'm the closest thing probably to a mother that they have, and that's fine. That's where I fit."
She and her husband moved to town 13 years ago and joined the foundation as a way to give back to the community. When he died, she volunteered more of her time.
"I just picked up more," she said. "It's my life. It's been a savior for me, and, you know, it's what I do."
The foundation provides meals each week to more than 100 people per sitting. All the food is donated. St. Timothy's Episcopal Church provides the location. The church allows the foundation to use a room, even though the church is not affiliated with the organization.
Dufendach volunteers six days a week – a 60-hour work week. "It turns out to be a pretty big commitment, but it's what I do," she said.
She also spends approximately $1,000 of her own money each month to help keep the program running. "I can't take it with me," she joked.
"Everybody knows her. Everybody respects her. It's actually made me want to be better as a volunteer because of seeing her," said Donna Coleman, a local child welfare advocate. "To be working as a volunteer at any age, let alone 80 plus, at 60 hours a week is an incredible commitment."
8 News NOW is rewarding Dufendach's efforts, awarding her $800 as part of its weekly series Acts of Kindness.
"Wonderful, that will buy a lot of socks. Wonderful, that's great," she said.