By QITING WANG
While the demand for WoodGreen Community Services Meals on Wheels program has gone up, the number of volunteers to deliver meals has gone down.
Meals on Wheels provides nutritious meals to seniors, people with physical disabilities and cognitive impairments, individuals suffering from illnesses and recovering from surgeries, and those who need special dietary planning and assistance.
The WoodGreen Meals on Wheels program served more than 54,000 meals to more than 570 people in 2021.
“The service helps me a lot, and it kind of cuts down on my expenses,” said Ivor Gwinnett, 65, a four-year client of the program.
Richard Pitter, Manager of Transportation and Food Services at WoodGreen, said one of the most immediate and pervasive issues WoodGreen had to address was high levels of food insecurity among community members when COVID-19 emerged.
Meals on Wheels were able to meet the demand by reallocating staff from transportation, child care and adult programs teams to help distribute the meals. But WoodGreen also saw the pandemic lead to a significant drop in the number of volunteers available to deliver meals.
“We went from over 50 active volunteers pre-COVID-19 to currently 20 volunteers,” said Pitter.
Volunteer teams are made up of a driver and a runner. The driver will drive their own car to the locations and stay with the car while the runner distributes the meals.
“Basically, the volunteers will be picking up meals at from our food source and delivering them along a pre-determined route directly to the seniors homes within the area,” said Pitter.
Volunteer schedules can be set based on availability. There are 10 to 12 routes per day, so WoodGreen needs 20 to 24 volunteers per day to cover these routes. The meals are delivered Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. for about 90 minutes.
Meals on Wheels volunteers deliver more than hot and frozen meals to seniors and adults living with a disability, they also provide security and wellness checks and help individuals access other community-based services.
Elizabeth Ritchie, 73, a four-year volunteer at Meals on Wheel who is a retired WoodGreen social worker, said the program provides an important safety check for people.
“Because if nobody answers the door, we have to report back to the office,” said Ritchie. “Then it will follow up and as a safety check if somebody by chance has an accident….The important thing for people to know is that volunteering is not taking out your entire day, it is really just a short time in your day.”
To volunteer with WoodGreen Meals on Wheels, please email email@example.com or call 416-645-6000, ext. 6697.
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