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!
Randy Scharf has been a Meals on Wheels (MOW) meal courier volunteer for 9 years – he was recently selected as one of the top prize winners of Kal Tire's "Road Heroes" contest. Congratulations Randy, and thank you for your years of service!
Randy has always been quick to lend a helping hand. For many years he would assist the older residents in his own apartment building, running errands for his neighbours when needed. After volunteering for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, he decided to continue with a more regular role. He found out about the MOW opportunity through Volunteer Richmond. Randy said “I had the spare time, and I’ve always felt it’s better to be busy than idle.”
In his role as a courier, Randy transports large batches of meals from the kitchen in Richmond to depots around the city 3 times a week, usually in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside near Oppenheimer Park or Strathcona. Delivery volunteers then pick up the meals to deliver directly to the clients.
Randy grew up in Richmond and knows the city very well. When he was working, some of Randy’s responsibilities involved delivering month-end statements to clients around Vancouver. He’s become even more familiar with the city in his time as a volunteer. When asked if much has changed during his near-decade of volunteering, Randy says “in some places, the traffic has gotten worse. And there are entirely new neighbourhoods and streets in Richmond as the city continues to develop.”
Helping out the community has been a tradition in his family – even though Randy only learned about some of this history very recently. “Hunger and access to food has always been a concern for me,” Randy said. He remembers, even as a child, that the thought of people going hungry made him uneasy. “I was chatting with my Mom and she mentioned that my grandmother was also very concerned about the well-being of her neighbours. She would bring food to those in her community if she was aware that someone was in need.” Randy said he wasn’t surprised to learn this about his grandmother. “I’m glad I can continue a family tradition – even though I didn’t know about it for a long time!”
Randy admits that there are times when he’s less enthusiastic – like when there’s heavy rain or inclement weather – but overall his experience is overwhelmingly positive and rewarding. Now that he is retired, he looks forward to volunteering because it motivates him to get up and feel productive about his day. “When I was working afternoon shifts, I tended to stay up late after work and then sleep in the next morning. It was easy to slip in to a routine where you’re less connected to the community – outside of the people who worked the same schedule.”
Randy has been pleasantly surprised about the community he has experienced, even in Vancouver’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods. “It’s true that there are places where people have many problems, and it can be distressing to see. But we shouldn’t forget that there is a very close-knit community of people living there, like all of us, just trying to get by.”
Speaking of inclement weather - Randy mentioned that his new tires from Kal Tire will help him feel more confident during winter conditions – he joked that “Richmond is already quite flat so you’re usually okay if you leave lots of room between you and the driver ahead during snow.” But thanks to Kal Tire’s Road Heroes contest, Randy will feel even more comfortable on his regular routes throughout the year. Thanks Kal Tire, and thanks again Randy for your years of support! Read more about Randy and the other contest winner volunteers who are making their communities better across the country on their website.
Stanley is a professional accountant - he immigrated to Canada decades ago. Despite his very busy work schedule, Stanley devotes one day a week of his personal time to serve the community. He has been a volunteer with Care BC's Chinese Meals on Wheels program for 12 years.
Stanley recalls that he first heard about the Care BC’s Meals on Wheels volunteer opportunity when he read about the desperate need for volunteer drivers in the newspapers. Although he had spent time volunteering while in school, he realized he hadn't volunteered since graduating. "I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to start volunteering again". Though his volunteering, Stanley feels that he is giving back to and connecting with his community.
Not only has Stanley given his own time delivering meals to homebound seniors across Vancouver and Richmond - he has also helped recruit more volunteers to support the program. In his role as an accountant, many of his clients are new retirees - with more free time on their hands, Stanley believes volunteering is a great way for them to stay connected to their community. Whenever possible, Stanley encourages these clients to consider joining the Care BC volunteer team - many of them have become regular volunteers.
We thank Stanley for his dedication to the Chinese Meals on Wheels program and for helping expand our team of volunteers. Last year we served more than 126,700 meals to seniors at risk of isolation across Vancouver & Richmond through our Western and Chinese Meals on Wheels programs. More than half (53%) of our MOW clients are aged 80 or older. 61% of our MOW clients report living alone. None of this would be possible without the support of our volunteers.
If you have a flexible work schedule and can spare a few hours on a weekday, we hope you'll consider volunteering with Meals on Wheels like Stanley!
Many of our Meals on Wheels (MOW) volunteers are retired – the opportunity allows them to stay active and give back to the community, for just a few hours per shift (deliveries are scheduled between 10:30am and 1pm). But there are an increasing number of new volunteers who work outside of ‘office hours’ or part-time who are also helping out.
Lindsay and Geneviève (pictured, left and right respectively), who both work at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, are MOW volunteers helping out in the Cedar Cottage area every Friday. They both work evenings and nights; volunteering in the late morning/early afternoon suits their schedule perfectly. “When you work nights, sometimes you feel that you’ve sat around the house all morning”, says Lindsay. She describes their commitment as “only a couple hours a week” (we’re very grateful for the help!), but it’s a very meaningful experience for them both.
Lindsay first brought up the idea of volunteering to Geneviève, who was aware of the service because her grandmother had helped the program that serves Montreal. They both thought it would be the perfect New Year’s resolution to give back to the community. Although Geneviève sold her car once she moved to Gastown, Lindsay picks her up in her car each shift. “I pick up the coffee for us both each shift,” says Geneviève, “I like that we get to catch up during our route – we see each other at work, but don’t always have time for a proper visit.”
When they first started volunteering, about a year and a half ago, they helped out in a few different areas. Eventually a regular route became available in the Cedar Cottage neighbourhood, where Lindsay used to live. “We were so happy when we got a regular route,” she said, “because we get to see many of the same clients each time we deliver”. Geneviève recalls having a good laugh with a client when he answered the door wearing a joke T-shirt picturing a bear chasing a cyclist which read ‘Meals on Wheels’.
Lindsay and Geneviève both recognize the importance of the informal safety check on each client they provide with their deliveries. Lindsay mentioned that her own grandfather once injured himself and no one from the family was able to visit him in person for 3 days (as he lives out of town). With a little added support from Meals on Wheels, many clients feel they can live independently in their own homes for longer.
One their regular clients recently moved into an assisted living facility (and no longer required Meals on Wheels) – “We were sad when we heard that Ana would be discontinuing her deliveries. We’ll miss our brief visits, but we’re happy to know that she’s in a facility that can provide her the additional care she needs.”
We’re very grateful for the support we receive from Lindsay and Geneviève each week – thanks for your support and commitment!
If you have ever considered volunteering (either individually or with a friend), we hope you’ll reach out. Learn more about our volunteering opportunities at www.carebc.ca/volunteering.html.
At a young age, Chloe does not know what her plans are in the future, but she is already giving back to the community. Chloe volunteers alongside of her mother, who volunteers with Meals on Wheels. With the same passion for helping people, they decided to make deliveries together to those in need. Chloe realizes how appreciative each clients are when they receive their meals; even with a language barrier, Chloe understands the clients are expressing gratitude towards her and the volunteer team.
Chloe finds it hard to describe the feeling you get from the volunteering - it’s hard to put in to words. She hopes that others will join the volunteer team and experience for themselves the value of giving back to the community.
As a requirement to graduate high school, students looking for volunteer hours should consider delivering meals to those around them. Not only will you collect required hours, but it may be a starting point to build your resume and reference list.
Giving back to the generation that provided so much for him was one of many reasons why Owen chose to volunteer with Meals on Wheels. Regretting the limited time he spent with his grandparents before they passed, Owen now dedicates his time to serve others in the community. Knowing that he may be visiting someone else’s grandparent, he tries to leave a smile on their face.
\Serving to the seniors in the community gives Owen a chance to connect and ensure the safety of the clients in their own home. His favourite part of the day is having conversations with the seniors, though he keeps his conversations short because there are other seniors waiting to receive their meals. Having more volunteers to help deliver meals alleviates the time constraint and the need to quickly move onto the next delivery. This will give volunteers more time to converse and to check on the safety of the clients.
Volunteering during Christmas and summer break, Owen has developed skills that he can be applied to his daily life, school and work. He has gained intergenerational communication skills and time management skills he uses each shift. Owen hopes to continue volunteering with Meals on Wheels and encourages others to as well.
Students like Harvey are perfect examples of how you can contribute to the community while gaining experience along the way. Harvey is going into his final year at University of British Columbia for computer science; wanting to make an impact in this world, he searched for a volunteer position that interested him.
Joining Meals on Wheels helped Harvey understand the constant need for volunteers to support the program helping seniors in his community. Harvey enjoys seeing the clients smile because they appreciate the meal delivery. Recognizing that he is making a positive impact on the lives of others, he finds time to fit into his busy school schedule. Harvey wants to make a difference; he wants to be a role model, leading by example, and that is why he continues to volunteer with Meals on Wheels.
Harvey believes that this volunteer position may interest students looking to go into the health care sector due to the similarities in clients in both environments. However, this position offers many transferable skills and experiences that anyone can add to their resume. This volunteer opportunity is great for students in any faculty looking to better the community and themselves.
If you want to know how to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life in retirement, you might find your answer in Polly, a Meals on Wheels Volunteer. Polly emigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in 1975; when she retired, she replaced her full time work with volunteering. Polly joined a S.U.C.C.E.S.S. women’s club in the Marpole area as a volunteer. She now leads a group of 16 volunteers who devote their time to the Meals on Wheels program, coordinating all of their delivery schedules. These volunteers are part of our larger network of volunteers who deliver over 400 meals a day to clients, who are often isolated seniors, across Vancouver and Richmond.
Polly, pictured at left, with the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia in 2015.
Polly knows that her volunteer role is important, not only because of the hot nutritious meals delivered, but because of the informal safety check each delivery provides. One day she was delivering to an elderly client; he did not answer the door after she rang many times. Polly immediately contacted Shirley, the Chinese Meals on Wheels coordinator at Care BC, as well as the building manager. Shirley contacted the emergency contact on file for the client; the building manager was able to open the door. They found the client had fallen, but was unable to call for assistance himself. They called the police and an ambulance, and the client was taken to hospital. It was a reminder that on rare occasions, a Meals on Wheels delivery can provide much more than a hot nutritious meal and a friendly visit.
Polly sees the value of volunteering for Meals on Wheels first-hand; that’s why she’s continued to volunteer for 11 years. She looks forward to connecting with isolated seniors in the community – people who may not have many other visitors. Polly knows that her volunteer work enriches lives with both nutritious meals and friendly visits, and can even save a life in emergency situations.
Babe Bailey is a lively and cheerful woman; when you talk to her, you instantly feel welcomed by her. She and her friends, who volunteer as a group from the Vancouver Shaughnessy Lions Club, have been volunteering for the Meals on Wheels program for more than fifteen years. She regularly works five days a week but still sets time aside during her busy week to help with Meals on Wheels.
Babe (pictured on the left, with a Meals on Wheels client and another Vancouver Shaughnessy Lions Club volunteer) finds her Meals on Wheels volunteer experience is quite different from other volunteer opportunities. She appreciates the direct contact and communication with the meal recipient each time she delivers meals and is very content when she sees the smiling faces of the elderly. Babe’s strongest motivation for volunteering with Meals on Wheels is the meaningful contact and connection she is able to establish with the seniors she visits. Over the past few years, Babe and her friends from the Lions Club have established a deep affection with the elderly they serve.
There is one very special moment that Babe will always remember. She often delivered to a very quiet lady who wasn’t overly friendly; Babe was always struck by her stoic nature. Her face rarely betrayed any emotion. But one day, when Babe was delivering a meal to her, she not only congratulated Babe on her birthday but also secretly made a birthday cake for her. Babe was overjoyed by this and realized that though this client might have difficulty expressing her love for others, all the emotions were hidden in her heart.
Babe also distinctly remembers the sadness when she hears of a long-time recipient’s death. She always feels sad when she hears of this, because she cares for each of her Meals on Wheels recipients so much. When asked if she would continue to volunteer with Meals on Wheels after the fifteen years of service, she confidently replied she would. “I hope I will be able to serve more elderly. It’s an extraordinary life experience that will bring my life abundance. I will always stick to it!”
Dennis and his son Michael have been delivering Chinese Meals on Wheels together for more than 5 years. Equally as important as the meal and friendly visit for a Meals on Wheels client, is the time that Dennis and Michael get to spend together. Twice a week, Dennis and Michael deliver Chinese Meals on Wheels, spending quality time together and fostering a strong father-son bond.
Before immigrating to Canada, Dennis was a police officer in Hong Kong. After settling in Vancouver, Dennis decided to take early retirement to be able to take care of his son Michael who has autism. Dennis helped his son apply for volunteer work to help gain some work experience, and in 2008 Michael started his volunteer work with Care BC’s Chinese Meals on Wheels program.
At first, Michael struggled with communication issues and he felt troubled and discouraged. So in 2010, Dennis decided to join the Meals on Wheels team with Michael. Dennis loves volunteering as he knows he is truly making a difference by helping to care for elderly people living alone and providing them with short visits filled with warmth and understanding. For Michael, it is important to experience caring and to build relationships with others. Both Dennis and Michael believe that caring for others and providing service to the community is one of the true important things you can do in life!
Dennis believes he and his son will continue this volunteer work until they physically can’t participate anymore. Volunteers like Dennis and Michael are the heart and soul of the work Care BC does. We can’t thank them enough for bringing warmth and comfort to people in our community.