My very first corporate volunteer experience involved picking up roadside litter on a blustery spring day in Kanata. I suppose the company was looking for a group exercise that we could all feel good about. They gave us gloves and heavy duty garbage bags and showed us where to clean up. It was OK and we learned how may Timmies cups get thrown out of car windows during the long Ottawa winter.
The next corporate volunteer activity felt a little more positive. The company organized a whole day to do a spring clean-up of a local overnight camp for underprivileged kids. We had to organize ourselves into teams and work together to clean up various parts of the camp. Over lunch I found out that a couple of my colleagues had come from less well off families and had actually attended the camp as kids. So that experience was a little more meaningful.
When I heard that a not-for-profit I’ve been involved with for a while was enabling corporate volunteering, I thought I should have a closer look.
When I heard that a not-for-profit I’ve been involved with for a while was enabling corporate volunteering, I thought I should have a closer look. Meals on Wheels has been delivering hot meals to seniors and others who need them in the Ottawa area for over fifty years. They have a small office staff and most of the meals are delivered by volunteers from their own cars. Volunteers can sign up individually or in groups.
Corporate Meals on Wheels groups receive the same training and do the same tasks as regular volunteers. They usually take on the responsibility for a single route on a weekly basis and then figure out how to staff it within their company or group. Each weekly run delivers to perhaps 7-12 client locations and lasts a couple of hours.
Earlier this year a group of realtors from Royal Lepage took on a Meals on Wheels route. Apt613 talked to Carter Brown, Theresa Seguin, Sharon Forbes, Linda McCallum, Jennifer Forward, Catherine Whyte, and Brian Sukkau. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: Did some of you have previous experience with Meals on Wheels? Is that how you got into it or you just saw something somewhere?
Royal Lepage employees: We had a morning meeting at our office hosted by Jill from Meals on Wheels. And it was because one of our long time people here has been doing it for a very long time. So he brought Jill in and she talked to us that morning. Most of us were sitting at the same table and we just turned around and looked at each other. And we said, sure, let’s do this.
I assume that because you’re in real estate it’s a bit easier for you than people in some professions to get out and drive around and do this?
Yes, well for example, Carter’s normal delivery partner has a funeral so Teresa stepped up. So we have the ability to swap out if there’s something at the 11th hour. And it makes obvious sense for us because we know the city so well. We can get in and out quickly and we know where to park and we know the shortcuts around town.
On an individual basis, what benefits do you find in doing this?
It’s huge. It really touches the heart. You’re giving up your time and you see that it’s much needed. You see a smile on their face. And it makes you realize how lucky you are when you see people living in certain situations and it just it’s very rewarding.
You’re giving up your time and you see that it’s much needed. You see a smile on their face.
Did any of your parents rely on Meals on Wheels?
My mother relied on Meals on Wheels for a time after an operation. I think that’s where I got my affinity for the organization. Sometimes people are having an operation and they need help. They can’t always rely on their family right in the middle of the day to bring them food.
And I suppose there is also the comfort of knowing that someone is going to check in at least once per day.
That’s a big thing for a lot of these people. It’s a great way to check up on people as well. And it makes them feel resilient too, because they’re okay. They might have to rely on their family, but they have this one meal a day coming. So they’re looking after themselves too. So it gives them a little bit of self-confidence.
Anything else you’d like people to know about this?
Well there could be lots of corporate teams if people just thought about it. So we’d like to inspire others to put corporate teams together because we’re all going to need it at some point or another. And these people, they’re so happy to see us. It doesn’t matter whether we got stuck in a snowbank doing the deliveries. For them it takes away all that crap that went wrong before you got there. Because they’re just so happy to see us.
Apt613 contributor Bruce Burwell has volunteered for Meals on Wheels on and off since 2006. To get more information on Meals on Wheels Corporate program, contact Jill Daigle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 613-233-2424.