Why did you take on this volunteer project?
I worked for Cummins Turbo Technology who have a programme called EEEC – Every Employee Every Community. Which involves every employee around the world volunteering in the community in work time. Through this programme, I got involved with Slaithwaite Meals on Wheels 8 years ago, as I lived in the next village, and started volunteering as a Delivery Volunteer transporting the cooked meals to people’s homes.
What do you do?
We are a volunteer-run organisation that was established 10 years ago by the Hairy Bikers. For the last two and a half years, I have been running Slaithwaite Meals On Wheels as I had more time once I retired. My role entails making sure we have enough volunteers and marketing to clients. On a general week to week, I confirm the menus, making sure we have the right volunteers to deliver to clients. Before Covid, we would deliver a hot meal every Wednesday. We always rang up on a Monday to tell clients the menu options and would then deliver on Wednesday. Pre covid we had 2 people delivering; one would decant the meal while the other had a chit chat with the client. We would also carry out other small tasks to help the client such as put their bin out, post letters, do a bit of shopping. Delivering the meal was a way of connecting with clients who were lonely and isolated; we could be the only people they would see all week. Currently, we have 29 clients, who are mainly people over 65years of age and we cover Slaithwaite, Marsden Meltham and Linthwaite.
As soon as the first lockdown happened, we stopped the service as we weren’t allowed in homes. Then it took us 3 weeks to work out how we could continue to run a service. In the meantime, I volunteered with the newly set up Slaithwaite mutual aid – and we started off delivering fish and chips on Friday lunchtime to those clients who could get to their doorstep. If a client could pick milk up off their doorstep, then we could deliver then fish and chips. We then progressed to cooking and freezing meals and this meant we could then deliver up to 5 frozen meals to each client, but we had to gather information on whether they had freezer and microwave and if they could use them etc. Once we had that information, we could drop off fish and chips along with some frozen meals. In august of last year when restrictions lifted, we switched from frozen meals to chilled meals, with the same principle of non-contact delivery to the house – we have various creative places to leave the meals – on walls, on stairlifts etc. We now deliver chilled meals and can offer a client more than one meal. We have also set up befriending calls so volunteers who aren’t able to go in the houses anymore can still speak to and connect with the clients. All the meals are cooked at the Community Centre in Slaithwaite. Meals cost £4 each and include a main meal and dessert. This helps to fund the service but we also apply for grants when we can and fundraising. We currently have 25 Volunteers – these include Kitchen Staff /Cooks, Delivery Volunteers, and a team who wash and dry the empty cleaners when they are collected.
What have you found rewarding or memorable about your experience?
I think the rewarding bit for me was finding a way that we could continue to deliver a meal to people. People needed us more when covid hit so we had to work out how we could still do it safely. Our clients still want us and need us and we are still here. What we have found with Covid is that we have linked up with other mutual aid groups and the Jubilee Centre and have been cooking meals for their clients, it reinforces that this type of service is needed and we are a very small part of it.
Find out more
To find out more information about Slaithwaite Meals on Wheels you can visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/slawit.mow/
Slaithwaite Meals On Wheels is one of a number of community and volunteer-run groups that have delivered over 4,000 hot meals to people in Kirklees during lockdown.