As an Educational Assistant working with children, Mary was left with limited responsibilities working from home after schools shut down in March due to COVID-19. With more time on her hands, she decided to seek out a volunteer opportunity during the pandemic. Meals on Wheels seemed like the right fit. Her parents were former Meals on Wheels clients in northern Ontario, and she used to volunteer at a long term care home and is familiar with interacting with vulnerable seniors. Mary also applied at a time when we were experiencing a dramatic decrease in our volunteer pool.
Since mid-March, the number of active volunteers dropped by approximately 80%. Following the recommendations by Ontario Public Health at the time, those over 65 years were asked to take a step back from face to face volunteering. Some volunteers also paused volunteering because of underlying health conditions or because they are living or caring for someone vulnerable.
Mary was one of the hundreds of people who applied to volunteer with Meals on Wheels, and she was one of the first to be selected, trained and onboarded in early April. Since then, we have virtually trained over 100 new volunteers who’ve stepped up during this time of crisis.
“I enjoy being out in the community and helping the elderly, as well as being able to share a smile and a few words of encouragement during this difficult time of isolation and loneliness,” says Mary.
Wayne, another new Meals on Wheels volunteer since April, echoes a similar sentiment. “Even with physical distancing, I have been able to establish a relationship with several of my clients. I now enjoy seeing and briefly chatting with them.” He also adds, “I have learned how really vital the Meals on Wheels service is. The clients are mostly seniors with both cognitive and physical disabilities. They are largely homebound, as they need to be particularly during this pandemic. They are so grateful for the meals and I am so grateful to be able to help out in a safe way.”
The safety of volunteers and clients is top of mind at Meals on Wheels. We’ve implemented many changes to our delivery protocols, and we appreciate everyone’s flexibility to adapt. For Wayne, an avid community volunteer, he needed to be especially cautious in choosing a volunteer role as he wanted to maintain contact with his elderly parents. He says that making deliveries for Meals on Wheels, “struck me as a particularly safe way to volunteer. And I can say without hesitation that it has proven to be very safe.”
Here at Meals on Wheels, we have been very grateful for how the community has stepped up in this time of crisis to make sure our essential service continues. We thank those who are using their time to make sure seniors and adults with disabilities are being cared for, provided nutritional support and a check in. Thank you Mary, Wayne, and all the volunteers who help keep our wheels turning!