by Robyn Roste/Special to Langley Advance Times
Life in a pandemic has increased the general public’s awareness and use of meal delivery services, but for Langley Meals on Wheels Services Society, delivering fresh, nutritious, and affordable meals has always been a central service.
Christmas is no exception.
The team will be out delivering meals throughout the holiday, brighten the season for many this year, said Shannon Woykin, the meals on wheels’ executive director.
For some who are housebound, these friendly volunteer delivery drivers may be the only face they see this Christmas, she explained. But there’s a bonus.
In addition to the meals being dropped this weekend, they’re also delivering some Christmas gifts presented from a number of different sources, Woykin said.
London Drugs is donating bags for seniors, local quilters donated handmade placemats, a local hockey team (supported by Funny Farm) donated cups filled with treats, and the Langley Seniors Village made up and donated 25 shoeboxes for the most at-need clients.
“The amount of gifts is just overwhelming – the community feels that they don’t want the seniors to go without,” she said.
Since 1979, this local not-for-profit organization has served residents of Langley City, Langley Township, and Aldergrove with affordable menu plans and social meal programs.
In 2018, they expanded their programming after discovering a gap for high-needs patients who live alone. After being discharged from hospital, these patients return home without adequate support. As a result, they often struggled to recover.
The charity’s Home from the Hospital program provides patients with complimentary hot meals for five days.
“We realized we could make a big impact for those leaving the hospital alone. We deliver a meal, a smile, and a safety check-in” said Woykin.
“People are often reluctant and wonder if they can afford meal delivery, so we eliminate that. We just need a referral the day they’re being discharged and their address, and we’re there.”
Woykin remembers delivering meals to a local veteran who was in and out of the hospital every month and wasn’t cooking for himself.
His family lived in Chilliwack and was exhausted, so the Home from the Hospital program was a much-needed support. Through donations they were able to continue past the five days.
“His whole demeanour changed. At first he would only be in a housecoat, but later he’d be fully dressed and waiting at the door for us,” she recounted. “He sent a card letting us know he hadn’t been in the hospital for a year since the service.”
There are dozens and dozens of similarly uplifting stories to come from the charity.
During the past two years, Langley Meals on Wheels has seen an influx of clients, and despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, running a lean operation and relying on irregular donations and government grants, they have not had to turn anyone away.
“This year, we onboarded about 500 clients,” said Woykin, who credits this accomplishment to their dedicated staff members and large volunteer network.
“We’re there short term, long term, and most of the time. We’re happy when we’re short term because that means they’re well enough to cook for themselves,” she added.
The majority of deliveries are handled by volunteers who provide about hot meals Mondays to Fridays, with frozen food for the weekend. They are currently delivering about 800 meals a week.
In addition to delivering food, the volunteers are a familiar, consistent, face-to-face connection for clients who may not have many visitors or opportunities to leave the house.
“There’s a social connection also, because the volunteers see the clients once a week and stay on the same routes. Often they’re the first to detect deterioration or health issues and put the staff on reaching the person’s emergency contact,” said Woykin.
At meals on wheels, the clients are the “top priority” and the subsidy programs allow them to provide an affordable service for those in need, she added, noting the organization doesn’t want financial hardship to be the reason someone doesn’t eat or have access to food.
They want their services to be available for everyone who requires it, Woykin said.
During the holiday giving season, donating towards the various programs meals on wheels operate will help them continue providing hot meals to at-risk community members. And for those who want to get involved, meals on wheels is in need of more drivers to take on routes, especially when the Aldergrove Community Station House reopens in 2022.
“We’re going to need an army once we open the [new] building,” Woykin said. “The routes are getting so big and long, and we’d like to shorten them. This gives the volunteer more time to talk with clients, and a shorter distance for the food to travel so it stays hot.”
To learn more, people can visit lmow.ca, call 604-533-1679, or find them on Facebook at Langley Meals on Wheels Services Society.
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