Two groups help provide Sydney area residents with meals

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From The Cape Breton Post January 10, 2014

SYDNEY — Residents of the Sydney area are benefiting from a partnership between two community organizations that provides nutritious meals each week to people who are often unable to prepare food for themselves.

New Dawn Meals on Wheels and Breton Ability Centre have a longstanding partnership dating back to 1994, but since last year they have found new ways to work together in the spirit of giving back to the community.

The non-profit meals on wheels delivers more than 250 hot meals each week to people in Sydney and area.

As part of a new initiative called adopt-a-route, New Dawn has sought out continues to seek, new volunteers to assist in meal delivery, and Breton Ability Centre responded. A support staff member and several residents devote their time to delivering meals.

“We did that, and volunteers from our own organization, through New Dawn Enterprises, we volunteered and as well as Breton Ability Centre, that was launched in the fall, just to kind of get to any wrinkles that might be there and try to see how scheduling might be with working schedules and what-not,” co-ordinator Jennifer MacKinnon said.

The meals are prepared by professional vendors, including Breton Ability Centre, and then delivered by a team of 35 volunteers who have an average age in the 70s.

“We have a great bunch of volunteers,” MacKinnon said. “They delivered over 9,000 meals last year for our program, which is absolutely amazing … The relationships that they develop with all of these clients and vice versa, I get calls all the time.”

The program observes statutory holidays and also doesn’t operate if school is cancelled.

MacKinnon said she’s heard that it has been an enriching experience for the Breton Ability Centre residents involved in the program.

“I know from my experience when I get out and deliver, it’s very humbling, I love getting out to speak to our clients,” she said. “They have so many stories to tell and just want someone to tell them to.”

As the volunteers visit the clients, it also serves as a well-being check. The clients often look forward to seeing which volunteer will deliver their meal each day. As volunteers get to know their clients, they can recognize the signs when something is amiss.

There has been one occasion, MacKinnon noted, where a man was discovered on the floor after having suffered a stroke and his life was saved because a volunteer was able to call for help.

“Our program goes above and beyond just serving meals,” MacKinnon said. “It’s a friendly face, our clients get to know who is delivering their meal every week and I’ve heard from a lot of family members that they’ll call because their family member is a little depressed and they feel isolated.”

Volunteers take very seriously the important role they play in their clients’ lives, MacKinnon said.

Ed Brown, a resident of Breton Ability Centre, has volunteered with the program since April.

“I love delivering meals, it makes me happy,” he said.

“My day is delightfully made when I am visited by my friends delivering meals on wheels,” client Peter Murray said. “Words cannot express how much these little visits mean to a 94-year-old fellow.”

Clients pay $6.50 for each meal. Referrals come through word-of-mouth.

The program works with dieticians and the menu is regularly reviewed to ensure it is nutritionally balanced.