The Magic of Meals on Wheels

with Shannon Sasseville, Director, Communications, ESC LHIN

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a guest volunteer with the Meals on Wheels (MOW) Program run by the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) in Windsor/Essex. Having worked many years in health care, and many of those in the community sector, I thought the day would be a pleasant reminder of all the good reasons why community health services are so important. As it turns out, the day was all of that and more.

As I sat in the passenger seat alongside two veteran MOW volunteers, we detoured through traffic jams, skirted around a fire scene, barreled down back alleys and wheeled in and out of spots so out of the way I wasn’t sure if I was still in Windsor. During this adventure, I got to spend time with these dedicated volunteers and learn about what drives these intrepid ladies to donate their time and talents. Despite having very busy lives of their own, they explained how important the MOW program is to the people they deliver food to and that by the end of the morning I would share in this experience as well. I have to admit, I used to run a MOW program and thought I knew all about the importance of this service, but there is nothing like getting out in the field and seeing first-hand how health care services affect people’s lives.

As we went about our morning food deliveries, my emotions went up and down like a yo-yo. I was saddened by the men and women who sit in their dark front rooms staring blankly at their radios, as if time stood still, yet eagerly waiting for a bright smile and warm meal from one of the MOW volunteers.
I was surprised at the number of younger-aged seniors in need of MOW services as they deal with their own personal health and life challenges, and I was also reminded of how much some people cared about their pets, putting their animals’ needs before their own. Above all, I was energized by the vibrant and beautiful 85+-year-old ladies who just needed MOW services to complement the assistance that their families could provide. These women spoke to me in detail about the importance of wearing good make-up in the morning, gave me essential tips on how to stay young and showed me that even though life threw them a few curve balls, they weren’t going to let anything get in the way of living a life full of meaning. Although both of her eyes were failing her desperately, one sweet soul instilled in me the importance of living each day to its fullest and not letting any challenge get in your way, even as every day brought her one step closer to total blindness.

By the end of the day, I wondered who had actually benefited more from the MOW program: the seniors who received their friendly visit and the hot meal, or me, the guest volunteer who left with not only invaluable advice from some amazing seniors, but a whole head full of reasons why health care is much more than just medical care.