We spoke with Sylvie, who has volunteered to deliver Meals on Wheels for over a just a year - she first joined the team at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. THANK YOU Sylvie for joining our volunteer team, and sharing some of your experiences!
"I first learned about MOW on Facebook through a group responding to the pandemic that MOW was in need of volunteers. I started volunteering on March 2020 with my husband, Philippe. He drives me and I deliver the meals. I had some training prior with Françoise, a seasoned and passionate volunteer.
Volunteering for MOW is a very rewarding experience for us, especially at this time when we know that being at home is not only the best option for seniors, but it is also the safest place. I can’t imagine how lonely it must be for them, but through this experience I am able to slowly connect with them more. Two seniors on our route started speaking French with me. I was surprised since it says on the sheet that she “speaks very little English “- well her French is excellent and it is not her mother tongue.
I also try to bring some children’s drawings with positive messages on them with the meals when appropriate. I think this really helps cheer them up as well.
I enjoy Health and Home Care Society of BC and the managing team. It is easy to get a hold of them in case of any problems or issues and the directions given are very straightforward. I understand now why so many volunteers helps the organization for so many years!
Regarding safety: I stay at least 2 meters from people and if I enter a home-which happens to drop off the meal on the counter, I wear my mask. And I wash my hands. I feel safe."
Janet has volunteered for Care BC’s Chinese Meals on Wheels (CMOW) program since 2001. She is always eager to help others and her cheerful attitude is appreciated by our CMOW clients, other volunteers and Care BC staff members.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have needed to adjust our processes and procedures. Many of our long-standing volunteers (who were seniors themselves and therefore at higher risk) took a break from delivering meals. Many other new volunteers joined our team during this time too. Janet is one of the key volunteers who has helped us through the pandemic, helping us adopt new safety protocols, while also welcoming new members to our volunteer team.
Twenty years ago, Janet had just emigrated from Hong Kong to Vancouver. Her mother encouraged her to pursue meaningful volunteer work; Care BC’s CMOW service has become the main program she supports since retiring from work.
Janet says that time has flown by quickly! Janet never would have imagined that she would have volunteered with the same organization for 20 years. The thought of homebound seniors, many of whom were at risk of isolation even before the pandemic, keeps Janet engaged. She knows the value of the brief social interaction and informal safety check our CMOW volunteers provide.
Janet is serious about her volunteer commitment – we thank her for her dedication and hard work. Recently, Janet has also provided help dispatching meals before delivery, cleaning bags after deliveries, as well as administrative assistance.
Care BC – and our community of CMOW clients - thank you for your participation and contribution Janet!
For as little as a few hours a week or month, you can help us make a difference in your community (Vancouver and Richmond) too!
Our volunteer application form is available online - https://www.carebc.ca/apply-now.html
What made you want to volunteer with MOW?
I am a married mother of two adult children, and a lifelong Richmond resident. In 2018, I retired from a 30+ year career with BC Hydro. I was enjoying retirement, but I was also keeping my eyes open for part-time work or volunteer opportunities to keep me out of trouble. There are plenty of jobs out there, but I didn’t want to do just anything – my criteria was that it had to inspire me enough to get out of bed in the morning, and bring me joy. Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I saw a TV news item that volunteers were desperately needed to deliver meals to people unable to get out and I thought, “I have a car and time on my hands – I can do that!” So I reached out immediately, and here I am.
What has surprised you most about volunteering with us?
Mainly, the time commitment. I had thought the routes would have more clients and would take up half my day, but I was wrong on both counts – I have one shift a week and my assigned route is usually 7 clients, so it only takes me about 90 minutes to complete. I told the office I’d be happy to take on more clients, and I’m available as a substitute if needed.
What do you wish people knew about MOW?
I’m sure there are more people out there that are in need of this service. I would encourage anyone who has elderly or physically challenged family members to consider enrolling them into the program – the cost is small, and the benefits are huge! Not only the comfort of knowing that your loved one is getting at least one good meal a day, but that someone is checking in on them. I think there are some days that I am the only other person that the clients see.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?
DO IT! Before I joined MOW, I had no idea how good helping others is for the soul. The clients are so grateful, it’s very humbling.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering with MOW?
I often tell my working friends that I do everything I used to do when I was working – the difference is, now I do it when I WANT to, not when I have to! I have also added an exercise component in the form of daily walks, which I never used to have time to do. I could only go a block or two when I started out, but within 6 months, I was up to 6-8 kilometers a day.
Is there a message you would like to share?
Let me offer the words of others, all of whom said it better than I can:
Wendi recently joined our volunteer team delivering Meals on Wheels to seniors in Kitsilano. Wendi’s work as a guide in the travel industry folded with the COVID 19 pandemic and led her to Care BC’s program. A friend had pointed her to a call for volunteers in the paper and she was joined the team almost immediately afterwards.
It’s been about 4 months since Wendi has joined and she is enjoying her clients who sometimes share stories from their fascinating lives -from eco-projects protecting whales to medical practices in Africa; other clients are just warming up to a conversation.
Wendi says the Care BC team have been accommodating and supportive –answering any questions they can during the learning curve. The process is organized and the commitment is not onerous. It’s a contribution to society that allows vulnerable people to stay in their home and have both healthy meals and human contact.
Wendi’s mom, 96 years young, delivered Meals on Wheels in the 1960’s on the other side of the country - she is proud to carry on this family tradition.
Lisa and Paolo are filmmakers, arts educators, community activists and now BIG BIG Fans of Meals on Wheels!
They meet on the opening day of the Echo Park Film Center (EPFC) – a Los Angeles-based non-profit media arts organization committed to providing equal and affordable community access to film/video – and the rest is a love story. Now after living in United States for over 20 years they are back in Vancouver!
They recently opened Echo Park Film Centre North (EPFC North), operating at the Moberly Fieldhouse in South Vancouver and are providing free eco-friendly cinematic wonder and plant-based art and animation for any and everyone who comes by.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are spending more time re-discovering their city as some of their in-person programming at EPFC North has been suspended.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Lisa and Paolo were looking for ways to give back. They asked themselves – “what do we have to offer?” At first they thought an opportunity like delivering for Meals on Wheels (MOW) wouldn’t be an option for them as they don’t have a car; but they quickly realized that “wheels” also referred to bicycles.
Volunteering with MOW was a perfect fit for the pair because they love interacting with people in their neighbourhood and riding their bicycles, while also believing in the importance of accessible and healthy food for all. Paolo says “it’s almost magical – not only is it very satisfying to deliver the meals, there are so many other ‘layers of goodness’ – increasing food security, combatting social isolation, performing an informal safety check, etc.”. They love their neighbourhood in East Van which to them feels like a true melting pot.
Volunteering with MOW gave them a chance to connect even further with their community. Before they started volunteering, they were already interacting with their neighbours with the creation of the FilmCYCLE – an itinerant bike-powered cinema. They screen short films on a mobile screen for cyclists to view while riding. They also take designated breaks in parks for those who aren't comfortable riding and/or may have some mobility issues.
Lisa and Paolo worked out a process that worked well for them – Lisa made the delivery to the client while Paolo stayed with the bikes and meals at each stop. Working together, they became so efficient that they could complete their route in just under an hour (about half the time of our usual delivery routes). Lisa highly encourages others “to join and volunteer with a loved one – be part of the fun!”
In just one hour a week, they made wonderful connections with the clients on their route. “It was always great to see the big smiles and waves from the clients – we knew we had brightened their day.” The couple made deliveries to the same clients each week and were always pleased to hear updates from everyone after each delivery.
Lisa and Paolo are passionate about giving back and “nourishing” the community. As Paolo says “we have been given a lot in our lives for which we are extremely grateful. But you also have to do your part to replenish the system”. In addition to the work that they do through their own non-profit organization through filmmaking, they support other charitable programs throughout the city as well.
Lisa and Paolo made deliveries throughout the spring and summer of 2020 and always looked forward to their Friday delivery route! However, now work and travel plans will be taking them out of Vancouver for the next few months as they focus on some documentary film projects. We thank them and are extremely appreciative of the assistance they provided.
Since 1967, Meals on Wheels has always been a grassroots-type program – members of the community identified a need, and volunteers have stepped in to help serve homebound seniors – for more than 50 years. Our Chinese Meals on Wheels program was launched in 1996. Today, the Western and Chinese MOW programs cover Vancouver and Richmond – we served more than 127,000 meals to seniors at risk of isolation across Vancouver & Richmond. More than half (57%) of our MOW clients are aged 80 or older. Up to 60% of our MOW clients report living alone. Without the help of dedicated volunteers, Care BC could not continue to offer these charitable services.
And to end with a quote from the late, great Freddie Mercury “Get on your bikes and RIDE”! It is fun, easy and there are a number of new friends to be made!!!
Suzanne has been volunteering with Chinese Meals on Wheels since mid-March. She had just moved back to Richmond (after working as an accountant in Bermuda for several years) when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. “I had come home for a bit of a break and was contemplating a possible career change,” says Suzanne. “I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to start volunteering – I have the time, I’m healthy, I have a car and I speak Cantonese.”
Suzanne enjoys interacting with the clients – she knows that in some cases she may be the only visitor a client sees in person that day, so she always asks how they are doing to make sure they are okay. She also enjoys interacting with the other volunteers who help make deliveries. “It feels like a real community,” she says. Without help from volunteers like Suzanne, we would not be able to reach as many clients as we do – thank you for your support!
Elaine and Sheldon have delivered Meals on Wheels by bicycle for just under a year. They have always enjoyed cycling and giving back to the community. “One day while we were on a ride, we saw a MOW volunteer cycle by. We realized that this was the perfect volunteer opportunity for us,” says Elaine. “It’s great motivation for us to get out of the house, and we always enjoy seeing the clients.”
Sheldon points out that “there’s a whole segment of society that’s easy to miss – people who are homebound, and possibly lonely, in basement suites and apartments across the city.” Overtime, they have visited the same regular clients on their weekly route. “I think the clients enjoy our brief visits even more as we’ve gotten to know each other.”
Elaine is quick to point out that “we don’t volunteer for the accolades – we volunteer because it’s good for us, and it’s good for the community!”
We thank Elaine and Sheldon for the dedication and continued support during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also thank them for referring a friend, Susan, who began volunteering this April, also on her bike.
Susan is a retired physiotherapist. She mentioned that “for the last 10 years or so of my career, I provided physiotherapy to clients in their homes. Delivering MOW directly to clients feels very familiar to me.”
She added that her first route was “Lovely! I had an easy route to navigate on my bike and everyone was very happy to see me and receive their meal.” Thanks Susan for becoming part of our volunteer team!
Garth and Susie are new Meals on Wheels (MOW) volunteers who started helping in mid-March near the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak – they saw a news item about our need for volunteers. Garth, a retired HandyDart driver, had previously volunteered with MOW in Powell River. He knew how important the service is for homebound seniors or people with mobility issues.
Garth and Susie travel regularly. Susie, a retired high school teacher, has taught in England, Italy, Tanzania, as well as North Vancouver and Powell River. “Volunteering on a regular basis isn’t always possible when we travel,” says Susie. However, the recent travel restrictions and their desire to stay close to home has given them more free time.
“We decided to reach out and lend a helping hand by delivering Meals on Wheels in the West End, our own neighbourhood. It also helps that we have a parking pass,” Garth noted, “because parking can be a challenge at times.”
Susie delivers directly to clients while Garth stays in the car. She knows that some clients are lonely; they look forward to the brief chat and informal safety check they get with each delivery. Thanks Garth & Susie!
Last holiday season, we spoke with Jim and Gaye - 2 Meals on Wheels (MOW) volunteers about their experiences.
We couldn’t reach as many MOW clients as we do without the help of our large volunteer team - almost 400 volunteers! Although the majority of our volunteers make deliveries with their own cars, many of our volunteers make use of car-sharing. (And some other volunteers deliver by bike).
Using Care BC’s MODO account makes it easy for even more people to volunteer their time. In some cases, using a MODO vehicle provides more room for longer routes. The MODO cars have also been used when a volunteer’s regular vehicle is being repaired or maintained.
There are special times of the year when our volunteers have more to deliver – for more than 40 years, the Garden Club of Vancouver has supplied beautiful floral arrangements which we share with our clients. On these special days, having access to a larger MODO car ensures our volunteers can still carry on with their routes without having to worry about cargo space in their own vehicles.
Last December, we chatted with two volunteers who use MODO vehicles on the day the Garden Club floral arrangements were delivered. We met Jim at the MAVA kitchens (where our Western Meals are produced); Jim is a courier – meaning he brings batches of meals to depots across the city. “My personal car is a two-seater,” says Jim. “I wouldn’t be able to deliver meals and floral arrangements without using a larger car from MODO. I’m glad I can still help out as a courier on special days like today.”
We next met with our delivery volunteer, Gaye, in the South Granville area. Delivery volunteers pick up meals from the couriers at our depots and bring the meals directly to our clients. “I don’t have a car”, says Gaye, “but I can still make a difference with a MODO vehicle. I enjoy volunteering and giving back to the community all year, particularly when I can help spread a little holiday cheer.
We thank the Garden Club for their decades-long support, and for making the holidays more cheerful for our Meals on Wheels client. We also thank all our dedicated volunteers for their ongoing support! If you have thought about volunteering with Meals on Wheels, but were concerned about a lack of a personal vehicle, consider lending a hand with our MODO account!
Meals on Wheels, operated by the Health and Home Care Society of BC (also known as “Care BC”), has served the community since 1967. We deliver to homebound seniors at risk of isolation across Vancouver and Richmond every weekday. In 1996, we launched a Chinese Meals on Wheels service to meet the changing needs of the area. Last year, our Western and Chinese Meals on Wheels programs combined delivered more than 126,000 meals!
We recently chatted with Rebecca, a volunteer with our Chinese Meals on Wheels program, about her experiences supporting the program. Rebecca makes time to volunteer, even though she is still working. The video includes captions in English. Thanks for your help Rebecca!