Volunteer shortage looms at Meals on Wheels

A Meals on Wheels representative (MOW) says a volunteer shortage threatens a vital service for those unable to help themselves.

Though many MOW locations are running smoothly, there are still a few without enough volunteers to get the job done. MOW has been operating since the early 1960s and serves approximately 800,000 meals to 9,000 clients through 20 locations across the GTA.

Mike Devine, the program co-ordinator of Yorkminster MOW in Toronto, hopes MOW can help the locations affected by shortages.

“I’m concerned about a volunteer shortage,” he said, “but I am hopeful the situation will improve as there will be an increase in the number of potential volunteers as the baby boomers retired. Most volunteers are retirees.”

The Yorkminster MOW is located at 1158 Yonge St. and operates seven days a week.

“Our agency has about 35-40 clients receiving hot meals daily and approximately 70 receiving frozen meal packages weekly,” Devine said.

Hasina Quader, the executive director of the True Davidson MOW in East York, explained that her location is in much need of volunteers.

“Right now we have 41 volunteers and we need 64. You may ask how we manage. Well, we are asking volunteers to do more routes and to come in for an extra day,” Quader said.

William Hance, who has been a volunteer for MOW since 1980, expressed the gratification he feels as a volunteer.

“You have a feeling that you are giving a little back to the community and that you are doing something good for the elderly people, he said. “It’s nice that they can stay in their homes since many can’t go out, shop or cook for themselves.

Kay Bonner, who lives in the St. Clair Avenue East and O’Connor Drive area, has been a Meals on Wheels client for four and a half years.

“One of the greatest things is having volunteers who do my groceries,” she said. I give them a list of things I need for every Friday and they deliver it to me. When the arrive, I have my money ready and I pay my bill.”

Bonner was once a volunteer and board member for MOW in the Beach area of the city. She explained that it is very easy for a volunteer to become attached to a client.

“You build great friendships,” she said. “When you’re delivering a meal and someone doesn’t come to the door you can’t just walk away. You have to report it and find out if everything is OK.”

Bonner also stressed the importance of volunteering for MOW because of the shortage some locations are facing. Bonner also believes that if more youths join MOW they will be setting a great example for others to do the same.