Meals on Wheels appeals for help
The continuing fallout from the Covid-19 crisis has left one of the island's top charities in need of help.
Managers of Meals on Wheels, which relies on an army of volunteers to cook and deliver food, said it urgently required 25 new people to step up and help.
Older volunteers have been unable to pitch in because of risks from the coronavirus pandemic.
Their replacements are now going back to work, leaving a dire shortage of kitchen staff and the drivers who deliver meals.
For 77-year-old Janet Baker, a bedridden client who lives at Till's Hill off Court Street, Hamilton, the service is a lifeline.
“They are heaven-sent,” Ms Baker said. “Being confined, and I can't sit up, it plays havoc on my mind.
“When they come, it takes me away from that depressing mood.
“Once I see them, I feel better and it takes me through the rest of the day. They lift my spirits.”
The pandemic means that volunteers cannot come inside people's homes.
But Ms Baker talks to them through her window while meals are dropped off for her grandson to collect.
She added: “They make sure I'm all right. Without them, I would have lost my sanity.
“I would tell anybody they are an organisation that can be well trusted. Them and their volunteers.”
Ms Baker has been a client for more than 20 years, and confined to her bed for the past decade.
Before the pandemic, the volunteers “became like family”, she said. But even with the team unable to come inside, the charity keeps her in touch with the outside world.
Betsy Baillie, one of the volunteers, said the loss of help post-lockdown had left Meals on Wheels “in desperate need”.
Peter Smith, the charity's president, said that the roughly 160 clients were people unable to fend for themselves.
He added: “Often they live alone. In many cases, our volunteers are the only people they see during the day.
“We're a source of safety, checking to see they're OK, and we still do that.”
At the start of 2020, the charity drew from a pool of about 140 volunteers, until seniors had to “step aside for a while” with the arrival of Covid-19.
But lockdown restrictions left others with free time to get trained to help in the Paget-based kitchen, or as drivers. With those people back on the job, Mr Smith said the charity was “struggling” and needed a dozen kitchen helpers plus a dozen more drivers at a time when need runs higher than ever.
“We knew this was coming,” Mr Smith said. “Older volunteers aren't comfortable, and that's perfectly understandable, although our protocols are very safe.
“Drivers do not come into the office. When they go to the client, they no longer enter the house.”
Mr Smith added: “It's a meaningful job. You're doing something for people that really need you.”
Thanks to donors, the charity has eliminated charges for its meals during a tough year — but needs people who can consistently give even a day per week to help.
Samaria Paynter, an online student of maths and statistics at Acadia University in Canada, said she volunteers in the kitchen out of a love of hospitality.
Ms Paynter said: “A lot of people right now are going back to their jobs. We're able to handle it. But it's not what it should be to make it more effective.”
A volunteer since July, said: “It's really the people that made me stay. It's a friendly environment.
“I love the effort they put into what they do. They really treat it like it's a restaurant establishment, even though it's a non-profit.”
• To volunteer, visit mealsonwheels.bm, or call 236-1815