When Meals on Wheels volunteers pulled up on a recent -5°C morning, one man came to the door in a T-shirt.
“Perfect timing,” he said, pointing to his freshly shoveled driveway.
“I was just cooling off.”
Just a few blocks away, a woman said thanks for the hot food – meatballs in mushroom gravy, a split pea soup, two side dishes plus toast, cheese and a peach dessert.
She was all right, she said, but still in a fair bit of pain after having to wheel her garbage bin to the curb earlier that day.
Six days a week, volunteers fan out across East York and the Upper Beach to deliver hot and frozen meals to seniors and people with disabilities who can use the help.
“I love it. It’s such a feel-good thing,” said Jessie MacCrae, a long-time Beach resident who took on a route this summer.
Lorie Fairburn, the development and marketing manager at Neighbourhood Link, said she would like to meet many more people like MacCrae.
After merging its own Meals on Wheels program with one run out of the True Davidson Acres nursing home last spring, Neighbourhood Link hopes to add more delivery routes south of Danforth Avenue.
All they need are volunteers.
Each route needs two people, Fairburn said, a driver and a delivery person. Given the six-day schedule, one route takes up to a dozen people to run.
“I would love to do it as my job,” she said.
“When you’re greeted at the door by seniors, they’re so happy to see you.”
Speaking in the True Davidson kitchen, coordinator Jubin Jose said the Meals on Wheels program now serves about 120 people. Volunteers load up at 10:30 a.m., and their insulated bags and coolers keep the meals hot until they finish at noon.
Looking over the day’s delivery list, Jose pointed out that clients can make special orders for diabetic, low potassium and other diets, or tell the chefs to hold the parsnips. The menu is varied and, with funding from the City of Toronto, each meal is only $6.50, and less for clients in need.
But serving good food is only part of the program.
“A number of times, we’ve saved the lives of our clients,” said Jose, noting that volunteers have found people in a critical state, dialed 9-1-1 and waited for paramedics to arrive.
Besides Meals on Wheels, Neighbourhood Link also hosts a regular Thursday night dinner at Gower Park Place, where Fairburn said they serve some 80 to 120 people on a budget of $120. When all Neighbourhood Link’s Thursday dinners, Meals on Wheels, senior’s and children’s meals are counted, the charity serves some 55,000 meals a year.
“It adds up really quickly,” said Fairburn. So does the list of people helping to make it happen.
“I think it’s all about people giving back to their community.”
For more information about Meals on Wheels, visit neighbourhoodlink.org or call 416-692-7407.