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.

Denise Pike/The Com­pass

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.

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