Sheila Alexander and Bill Andrew may be giving back to the community through their volunteer efforts, but they get just as much back in return.
The New Westminster residents are among the crew of volunteers who deliver meals for the Seniors Services Society's Meals on Wheels program.
The service involves the delivery of fresh, nutritious meals to New Westminster residents who are 55 or older and are unable to prepare meals on their own.
"It's very good," Alexander said. "Anytime, from the time I reach the door, an enlightening feel will come to me."
Meals on Wheels volunteers meet at a designated location, where they pick up meals that have been cooked at Starlight Casino in Queensborough. They then deliver the meals to appreciative seniors in the city.
"They are glad to see the meal, a hot meal," Andrew said.
Andrew said some seniors accept their meals at the door, while others invite them in and allow them to bring the meal into their home.
"They chat a little. They like to have a visit," he said. "I find it very rewarding."
Andrew started volunteering with the Meals on Wheels program after reading about the program's need for volunteers in the Royal City Record about 10 years ago. He enjoys the contact with the clients and likes working with the other volunteers.
Seniors are happy to see the volunteers, some even offering a little hug for the meal and quick visit, Alexander said.
"It's in my field," said Alexander, who has volunteered with the program for two years. "I have been in dietary and work with geriatrics for over 20 years."
New Westminster is divided into three areas, so three teams of drivers deliver the meals to seniors in a timely fashion. Deliveries are made between 10: 30 a.m. and noon, Monday to Friday.
"We have a strict timeslot," said Sanjay Gulati, the society's support services manager. "People are expecting their meal at a certain time."
Gulati said Meals on Wheels provides seniors with a nutritious meal, but it also provides contact that they may not otherwise have with a visitor.
"It's seeing them, how they are progressing," he said. "It's that personal touch."
Gulati recalled a recent case where a meal was being delivered to a senior who didn't answer the doorbell. When society officials called the residence they learned the senior had fallen but he did not need medical help.
Gulati noted that seniors involved in Meals and Wheels also have an option of getting a frozen meal delivered that they can heat up on the weekend, when the service isn't offered.
Both Andrew and Alexander highly recommend volunteering with the Meals on Wheels program.
"It's a nice rewarding program to get involved in," Alexander said. "Someone always needs help.
The Seniors Services Society's Meals on Wheels program currently has about 20 volunteers, but is always in need of additional volunteers.
"The availability is not always there for volunteers," Gulati said about drivers. "There always needs to be a backup pool so the service can go on."
Gulati noted that the Seniors Services Society welcomes and needs volunteers in a wide range of programs, including: the Dining Club (seniors are picked up and driven to a local restaurant where they enjoy a dinner that ranges from $8 to $16); the Out and About program (which includes outings such as shopping excursions, movies, arts and cultural performances, casino trips and sports events); the Lunch Bunch (where seniors are transported out to enjoy lunch and socialize with their peers).
Volunteers are also needed for the support calls program, which provides daily morning calls to check on the wellbeing of isolated seniors and to have a friendly morning chat. Drivers are also needed to help transport seniors to and from medical and dental appointments.
"Volunteers we need for medical transport - we are short there. We are short for volunteers for Meals on Wheels," Gulati said. "To increase the services, we always need more people."
For more information about volunteer opportunities with the Seniors Services Society, call 604-520-6621. firstname.lastname@example.org