Meals on Wheels has been incredibly fortunate to have so many members of the community step up to help our agency over the past few months! When the pandemic first hit, we saw a sharp drop in our volunteer numbers. Many of our regularly scheduled volunteers could no longer fill their shifts. Some were vulnerable to getting ill, some had people in their life who they needed to protect, and others were concerned about the virus that we knew so little about. As a volunteer-based organization, this brought major concerns. Our volunteers are the heart of everything we do. Without them, how could our operations continue?
Fortunately, we underestimated our community. After making the call for volunteers we immediately saw the applications begin to roll in. We could hardly believe the number of people that were eager to help in any way they could.
One of those people was Claire, a second-year dietetics student at the University of Alberta. Like many, Claire found herself unemployed due to the shutdowns brought by COVID-19. With no job and school ending early, she found herself with some extra time on her hands. “I wanted to fill my time with something productive that would help my community”, she explained. Her background in dietetics and passion for healthy living drew her to Edmonton Meals on Wheels.
Claire started volunteering regularly in whatever role she was needed most. Some days she's in our kitchen chopping veggies and portioning dinners. Other days she is driving around the city delivering meals. She even fills a few of our facility sanitization shifts when needed. No matter the job, Claire shows up with a smile.
Part of her willingness to help comes from the enjoyment she finds in her new volunteer role. “It doesn’t feel like work and it’s a great environment to be in”, she says. Her favourite part is the other volunteers and staff who she finds to be “so altruistic and kind.” Claire has even made a few friends since joining the Meals on Wheels team! One of them likes to tell a lot of food puns when they work together in the kitchen. Claire says this helps to “keep the energy up during the shift.”
Volunteering at Meals on Wheels has also been a great learning experience for Claire. She enjoys applying her education in dietetics to a practical setting. Through working in our kitchen, she has learned about different diets and texture modifications. Claire also values the opportunity to interact with older adults as the experience will help her when working with these populations down the line. Through these interactions with clients, she has also realized that her contributions are making a difference. “When we were in the thick of the shutdown everyone was so grateful for us. It made me feel like I was doing a good thing”, Claire explained.
We have so much appreciation for Claire and volunteers like her who stepped up to support our agency when we needed it most. It is hard to imagine how we would have gotten through this difficult time without them. We are thankful that there are so many thoughtful and caring individuals in our city who are willing to give up their time to provide a healthy, affordable meal to those in need!