Meals on Wheels program hungers for new volunteers
Program dishes out hot meals with friendship for dessert
Canadians from coast to coast are celebrating the accomplishments of volunteers this week.
National Volunteer Week, which runs from April 19 - 25, provides individuals, families, non-profit organizations and governments with the opportunity to honour people who donate their time and energy to help improve the lives of others. The theme for the week Celebrating People in Action also recognises people who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities.
Volunteer roles include serving on boards and committees of local agencies and associations, mentoring peers, organizing cultural and recreational activities, providing shelter and counselling services and coaching sports teams.
For some seniors, like Charles, 85 and Winnifer Soper, 88, of Carbonear, National Volunteer Week allows them to thank the volunteers who deliver hot meals to their home three times a week through the Interfaith Senior Citizens Home Meals on Wheels Program.
“The program and the volunteers are just wonderful,” says Charles Soper. “There’s just no way to describe how good it is. The food tastes great and the volunteers are very kind and caring. We look forward to them dropping off the meals, but also to the little chats we have with them.”
The Interfaith Meals on Wheels Program, established in the early 80’s under the umbrella of the Eastern Health, is a volunteer driven not-for-profit agency which provides hot nutritious meals to 12 to 18 seniors in the Carbonear and Harbour Grace areas.
“Some of our elderly clients are not well enough to prepare meals for themselves or don’t have anyone to cook for them while others access the Meals on Wheels Service periodically when their caregivers, who normally prepare their meals, are away on holiday,” said Wayne Osmond, Coordinator of Therapeutic Recreational and Outreach Services with Eastern Health.
Others have different reasons. The Sopers says being part of the Meals on Wheels program gives them a little independence. The couple, who have seven children and many grandchildren, say the Meals on Wheels program allows them to give their family a break.
“Having a meal brought to us is not a problem, but we don’t like to have to depend on our children all the time,” said Charles Soper.
Osmond, who coordinates the Meals on Wheels out of the Interfaith Seniors Home, says all the food is prepared in the kitchen at the facility.
“ Right now the maximum amount of meals we can prepare for the Meals on Wheels, on top of what is prepared for clients in the home, is 18,” said Osmond. “The tray system makes it difficult for the volunteers to handle or carry any more than that.”
Around noontime every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (with the exception of statutory holidays) nine seniors from Carbonear receive their lunch. Three clients in Harbour Grace receive theirs on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Volunteers pick up the trays of food from the kitchen of the Interfaith Home, load them aboard their cars and take them to waiting seniors.
“Some of our volunteers have been delivering meals as long as the program has been on the go,” said Osmond.“I can’t say enough good things about them, I can’t praise them to the nine’s enough. There is no way we could do it without them. If we didn’t have the volunteers to rely on, we wouldn’t be able to operate the Meals on Wheels Program.”
Meals, which cost $3.33, come with soup, a main meal and dessert.
“You can’t get this kind of a nutritious meal from a poor restaurant, much less a good one,” chuckles Mr.Soper. “And the food is really good too. All the food groups are covered, so we know we are eating well. Even if the cost of it went up, it will still be worth it, but $3.33 is not much money to have to pay.”
According to Osmond, seniors receive more than just a hot nutritious meal.
“They get to socialize with the volunteers, maintain independence in their own home and stay connected to the community,” said Osmond.
Referrals for the Meals on Wheels Service come from fam- ily physicians, relatives or the clients themselves.
“There’s an application process in place, but very seldom do we screen anyone out,” said Osmond. “Information needed includes name, address, emergency number and whether or not a special diet is needed... those kinds of things.”
Eugene Hurley, his wife Ellen Merrigan and her father Pat Merrigan, 85, have been delivering meals to seniors in the Carbonear area for years.
The Compasswas at the Interfaith Seniors Citizens Home when Eugene and Ellen showed up at the kitchen to pick up trays of food. The couple, who also volunteer with numerous other organizations, say the Meals on Wheels is one of their favorites.
“It’s very rewarding. The people we deliver to are very appreciative,” said Ellen and Eugene. “When they meet you at the door, their faces light up. The only compliant we have about the program is that we often don’t have enough time to stop and talk with them as we would like because we have more meals to deliver.”
According to information from the Provincial Healthy Aging ImplementationPlan( 2007-08), over the past 30 years the population of Newfoundland and Labrador has aged faster than any other province in Canada. The plan also says over the next ten years, people over the age of 65 will make up more than 20 per cent of the total population. Therefore the demand for more volunteers, for programs like the Meals on Wheels, is expected to grow.
“We could really use more vol- unteers now,” said Osmond. “Right now it works out that a volunteer is scheduled to deliver every fourth week in Carbonear and every third week in Harbour Grace. If we had more volunteers, it would be even less than that.”
Like the other volunteers involved in the Meals on Wheels program, Eugene and Ellen’s genuine desire to help others may one day benefit them.
“We do it to support our seniors and because we enjoy doing it, but also with the hope that one day, if we need the program, some volunteer will be there to deliver a meal to us,” they said.
FIT FOR A KING - Judy Oliver, Gary Clarke and Pauline Baldwin, dietary workers at the Interfaith Seniors Home in Carbonear prepare food trays for the Meals on Wheels Program. The Program, established in the early 1980’s under the umbrella of Eastern Health, is a volunteer driven not-for-profit agency, which provides hot nutritious meals to 12 to 18 seniors in the Carbonear and Harbour Grace area.
SERVICE WITH A SMILE - Eugene Hurley delivers a hot nutritious meal to the home of Charles and Winnifer Soper, Carbonear. The elderly couple are very appreciative for the Interfaith Meals on Wheels program and its dedicated volunteers.
FAITHFUL VOLUNTEERS - Eugene Hurley and his wife Ellen Merrigan put trays of food aboard their car to deliver to seniors. The couple, along with ten other people from Carbonear and Harbour Grace, volunteer with the Interfaith Meals on Wheels program.
OUTREACH SERVICES - Wayne Osmond, Coordinator of Therapeutic Recreational and Outreach Services with Eastern Health, says more volunteers are needed for the Meals on Wheels Program.