Covering ground with Meals on Wheels
By Jenn Watt
Oct. 4, 2016
Haliburton County is about the same geographic size as Prince Edward Island.
It’s vast with roads converging in unlikely places. The grid pattern of most towns doesn’t apply to the squirrely roads that loop and turn around rocks and lakes.
Those who drive a lot know this, but it must be even more apparent to those who drive for a living – or as volunteers.
Last week, as part of a series on Community Support Services, I tagged along on one such trip delivering Meals on Wheels to an 87-year-old man named Maurice Cooke.
Despite being keenly aware of the county’s size, it still came as a shock to me on Thursday morning when Ida Schultz, co-ordinator of Meals on Wheels for CSS, told me my destination: Dorset. Fifty-six kilometres away.
A blue insulated bag was ready, filled with frozen meals and topped with a plastic container of fresh fruit. I met up with Nancy Brownsberger, community outreach co-ordinator for CSS, and was off.
It takes a bit of time to cover 56 kilometres, and on this trip the leaves were starting to flush red and orange along Highway 118. I took in the blue sky, the autumn colours, and listened to news on the radio.
Nancy and I carpooled from Carnarvon north, allowing plenty of time to chat about life and the importance of the program to the wider community.
The Meals on Wheels program also has a designated van complete with official decal. For the regular volunteers, the van helps make the trips more efficient, but for my purposes it was one meal delivered by car.
Since Ida takes care of putting the meals together and organizing the route, the job of the volunteer is to get the meals to the clients efficiently and with care.
Maurice let us know how much care is taken by local volunteers.
At 87, the retired teacher no longer drives, but clearly lives a full life in his lakeside abode with five-year-old yellow lab Jojo. He spends half the year in the Highlands and half in Toronto. Maurice (pronounced Morris) answers the door with his dog by his side and leads us to the kitchen to put away the meals. Salmon in lemon sauce, turkey with stuffing, teriyaki chicken, honey mustard ham and shepherd’s pie will be on the menu this week along with delicious sounding desserts: cherry crisp, maple chocolate mania square, caramel apple crumble and cheesecake.
Maurice picks up the fruit from the top of the pile. It’s his favourite – and does not come with the meals he receives in Toronto. According to Ida, grant funding through FoodNet allows them to give out the fruit, which is prepared at the Independent.
While Nancy stocked the fridge with the frozen meals, Maurice and I sat down in the living room to chat about why this program was important to him.
“Mainly, I want to be as independent as possible,” he said. “I turned in my driver’s licence earlier this spring … I just wasn’t feeling as confident as I knew I should be driving. That requires a fair amount of reorganization of your lifestyle.”
To make things easier, he signed up for the CSS program. Since that time, he’s been receiving regular visits on Thursdays or Fridays from the volunteers.
“They have a nice little visit every time they come. I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s amazing, the organization’s hard work. I feel very fortunate.”
Maurice has owned his cottage since 1969. It’s played host to many family Christmases since that time and is a comfortable home.
Meals on Wheels is part of a larger strategy to allow people to stay at home longer. Bringing healthy meals to seniors or those with disabilities makes independent living a reality for 249 clients across the Highlands.
After a brief chat and several visits by the energetic Jojo, who hurried around the room with glee, we were on our way out – empty blue bag in tow.
We said our goodbyes and hopped back in the car, back on the road covering the kilometres back to Haliburton.
Community Support Services is a department of Haliburton Highlands Health Services and delivers a wide range of programming including hospice care, adult day program, transportation, diner’s club, friendly visiting, emergency response systems and more. To access their services or to offer your time volunteering, call them at 705-457-2941, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to hhhs.ca/community-support-services.