National Meals on Wheels Day is held every year on the last Wednesday in August and is a day for celebration and acknowledgement of the 45,000 hardworking and dedicated volunteers who work with Meals on Wheels Australia (MOW).
Meals on Wheels delivers meals to over 200,000 older people in the community, however, a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, bushfires, and floods has resulted in a loss of volunteers over the last 18 months.
This National Meals on Wheels Day, MOW is hoping to recruit more delivery drivers to the cause to make sure there is continuous service delivery to older people who use the service.
President of MOW Australia, Sharyn Broer, says volunteers play an integral role within the organisation and with more older Australians needing Meals on Wheels support they require new volunteers to ensure they can continue delivering now and into the future.
"Meals on Wheels delivery drivers are required right across Australia. This Meals on Wheels Day we are encouraging anyone who has a few hours to spare each week to reach out to their local Meals on Wheels service and offer their support by way of volunteering," says Mrs Broer.
"We have noticed a particular shortage in delivery drivers, who often use their own vehicles, so Meals on Wheels needs more wheels!"
Meals on Wheels customers are not the only ones who benefit from the essential service, people who volunteer also receive social benefits.
Recent research from Volunteering Australia found that the positive impact of volunteering includes preventing social isolation and loneliness in those who donated their time during COVID-19.
Mrs Broer says, "At Meals on Wheels we recognise the sense of pride and purpose volunteering at a local service offers, as well as opportunities to make new friends while making a real and positive difference within your local community.
"We truly are indebted to our volunteers and wish to thank them for their commitment and resilience over the last 18 months. Without their help, we would not be able to support the health, independence and connection of over 200,000 older Australians every year."
This year's campaign from Meals on Wheels is also focussing on the next generation of volunteers and the organisation is working with and inspiring children in local primary schools.
Primary school students have written 'thank you' cards for MOW volunteers this National Meals on Wheels Day to show their appreciation to the volunteers for their hard work.
"Our volunteers tell us that they don’t need formal recognition, but we know that they would be thrilled to receive a handmade thank you card from a young student," says Mrs Broer.
"It also provides us with an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the benefits of volunteering, social responsibility and the importance of caring for vulnerable members of our community, to the ‘next generation’ of volunteers."
Customers of MOW Australia are incredibly grateful for the services they receive and the friendly face and chat they get to have with the volunteers.
One client says, "I look forward to seeing their smiling cheery faces every day. This valuable service allows me to stay in my home, knowing a meal will always be available, even during a COVID lockdown.
"I have no one in the world besides my dog. Meals on Wheels volunteers virtually saved my life. It means so much to know that those two people were there for me and took the time to make me feel valued. Those couple of minutes made a huge difference to my life."
Volunteers of MOW Australia feel that they are making an incredible contribution in their local community.
One MOW volunteer says, "I moved to our community about five years ago and it has been the best way to meet people. Our customers are so grateful for anything we do, but I don't think they realise the rewards we get from doing it. I always look forward to the days I am rostered to deliver.”
"This service is absolutely invaluable to the community. Apart from meeting other wonderful volunteers, the absolute privilege is connecting with the customers.
"Creating a personal connection with them. Not all but many live alone. Having a chat and building that relationship I feel reminds them of their value to society and that their contributions have not been forgotten. I love being part of the team.”
Those interested in volunteering at their local Meals on Wheels service are encouraged to contact Meals on Wheels Australia through their website. For more information on National Meals on Wheels Day 2021, visit the Meals on Wheels website.