By AMANDA GIBB
Volunteer Tracy Tait has ditched the car in favour of her bicycle to deliver fresh meals to seniors in the Beach through the True Davidson Meals on Wheels program.
After Tait retired, she knew that she wanted to volunteer, and saw that True Davidson Meals on Wheels needed help from the community.
“I had a friend that was already doing it there so she encouraged me as well. I’ve been there a couple of years already,” said Tait.
Nina Safary, volunteer and special events coordinator at The Neighbourhood Group (a merger of Central Neighbourhood House, Neighbourhood Link Support Services, and St. Stephen’s Community House), said that the Meals on Wheels program has delivered more than 110,000 meals to East York seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic alone, and that number continues to increase.
“Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, The Neighbourhood Group has remained committed to helping the most vulnerable people in our communities including seniors, people who are homeless or precariously housed, and at-risk children, youth, and families,” said Safary.
On a typical day as a volunteer, Tait said that she goes to pick up the meals at around 10:30 a.m. and finishes her route around noon. She said that volunteers always deliver in pairs, usually with one acting as a driver and one as a runner.
“I do it twice a week, I go with my husband on Mondays and on Tuesdays I go with my friend. You get a route you have to deliver to and it’s the same route every week; you see the same people which is great and persistent,” she said.
Tait said that she gave up the car because she cares deeply about the environment, and switched to delivering via bike instead.
“We gave up our car and we still wanted to do Meals on Wheels, so I said let’s try this out and see how it goes and it went really, really well. I was quite impressed with how easy it was. My husband basically had one of the child carriers on the back of his bike and we put all the meals in there, and I would run and deliver them,” she said.
Tait said she’s trying to make a point that people can still do the things they want to do without a vehicle, and she plans to keep delivering meals with her bike.
As a cyclist, Tait said that the worst roadblock in her route is the O’Connor Drive Bridge because the Woodbine bike path suddenly stops when you cross it.
“It’s a pretty treacherous route because the bridge has no bike path on it, so there’s a narrow little lane and that’s the only challenge,” she said.
Hasina Quader, the senior manager of the Meals on Wheels program through The Neighbourhood Group, said that the service has a huge positive impact on the seniors living in East Toronto.
“The caregiver (of the senior) has the peace of mind that (they’re) being taken care of by someone because they’re often living alone…Meals on Wheels is more than a meal…We are helping seniors to maintain their health status physically and mentally,” said Quader.
She said that volunteers provide seniors with a friendly visit and someone to talk to as well.
“It’s a security check, there’s a human touch…It’s not a pizza delivery where someone comes, you pay, and they’re gone…There’s a difference between volunteers and a paid person, it’s coming from the goodness of their heart and they want to help people,” said Quader.
Quader said that Meals on Wheels can help improve seniors’ quality of life through nutrition, wellness checks, and through volunteers simply forming meaningful connections with people who may otherwise be alone with little social contact.
If you’re interested in volunteering with the True Davidson Meals on Wheels program, please call 416-752-9667.