Every Tuesday morning, Diane McConnell receives a knock at her door.
She opens it to find another meal delivery left for her.
With a smile, she waves to the masked visitor from a distance.
For McConnell, as a senior with immune problems, the anxiety of going out among a crowd during the coronavirus outbreak, has left her and many others avoiding the grocery store, unless absolutely necessary.
“Many of us are unable to stand and cook full meals or get out to shop for food,” says McConnell.
The Guelph Wellington Seniors Association (GWSA) have been quick to help. Since the pandemic hit, it has responded to make sure that local seniors have meals and fresh produce delivered.
“This service has been life saving for many of us,” says McConnell, a regular recipient of the GWSA meal program.
“Although we have families who help us, there are many who don’t have family help. And the price of food and other necessary items have increased substantially. The $300 one-time government help is not enough for long term help.”
McConnell lives in one of five buildings geared for older adults within the Wellington Housing Authority who receive regular meal deliveries.
“I have immune problems, so I’m scared to go out,” she says. “This has been such a big help. I have just received four frozen dinners and fresh fruit and veggies.”
For Molly Roberts, Community Eat Well Coordinator at the GWSA, making weekly deliveries has become the new norm.
“Once the pandemic hit, we shifted putting our budget into delivering meals to seniors,” Roberts said.
“We’ve gone from delivering to 36 people in the first few weeks, to almost 190.”
With support from the United Way, who have helped provide additional funding, the GWSA Community Support Services has been able to keep the meal program going strong.
“The bulk of our work has been delivering produce and frozen meals from the Evergreen Centre. They prepare the meals, and we deliver them,” Roberts said.
“We’ve been delivering once a week since March 24. We are so lucky to work with the county to role out this program to be able to deliver to these buildings which are geared to older adults and income.”
The GWSA has another community partner, The SEED in Guelph.
“The SEED has given us a place to do all of the packing and have helped us obtain fresh produce,” Roberts says.
“We have such dedicated staff who have shifted from their usual programming to packing, delivering and connecting by phone. We talk to our clients at least once a week just to check in with them and this is something they really appreciate.”
The GWSA has more than 2,600 members and over 500 professionals and volunteers that operate more than 40 activity groups and services.
With the pandemic presenting a high risk for seniors, centres which the GWSA uses to provide regular programming like the Evergreen Seniors Community Centre, have had to close their doors.
But the kitchen at the Evergreen remains open, and all kinds of frozen meals are prepared for seniors in support of the GWSA.
“We are just so delighted to be able to work with our partners at Evergreen, the County of Wellington Housing and The SEED. And thanks to funding from the United Way, we can go on supporting seniors until March 2021,” Roberts said.
Over 4,000 lbs of produce has been delivered by GWSA through The SEED and 6,300 frozen meals have been prepared at the Evergreen Centre since the start of the pandemic.
“We’re so delighted to hear from people we serve because it seems to be helping them stay at home and it also gives them access to good food,” Roberts said.
For her part, McConnell is grateful for the continued support she and the other seniors in her building have received.
“A couple women have heart conditions, so it’s been really helpful. Also, we just don’t have the extra funds to receive other services. This is so appreciated,’ she says.
Deliveries usually include a recipe which incorporates the fresh fruit and veggies, an added bonus for McConnell.
“We are all living apart now and we have to. If you know seniors, for many of them, it’s hard to get to the store. Grocery stores are trying to do what they can and we do what we can. I have osteoarthritis and I try to keep moving but not everyone can,” she says.
And for Roberts, it means knowing that the seniors she serves are safe and have access to healthy food.
“It’s been wonderful to have such meaningful work during the pandemic and with such a thoughtful group of seniors,” she says.
“And we are always grateful for the donations we receive. Right now, we are also looking for different items we can deliver for seniors such as activities to do while they are at home. We welcome any ideas.”
When McConnell receives a phone call, the day before her delivery, she knows what time it will arrive.
The masked visitor places it carefully on the floor and leaves with a friendly knock.
“It’s so considerate of them,” McConnell says. “I can’t thank them enough. They are my heroes.”
To donate to the GWSA, visit https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/7881.