If you’re looking for a hands-on volunteering experience where you really feel you’re helping, the N.D.G. Food Depot welcomes you as they expand their home delivery program.
“We have a stable core of volunteers who assist with the program, and most are seniors themselves who want to get out and do something meaningful,” says Bonnie Soutar, the Depot’s director of development. “These volunteers regularly call the recipients, pack individualized food baskets reflecting specific health needs, deliver the bags throughout N.D.G., Côte St. Luc, Westmount, Snowdon and Côte des Neiges, Montreal West and Ville St. Pierre, and most importantly, report back to us if they notice changes in anyone’s circumstances.”
The Depot is making a concerted effort to reach people who are falling through the cracks and cannot help themselves. With the government’s plans to release seniors from the hospital as soon as they are medically stable, Soutar anticipates the need to find, feed and support these people will become more urgent.
There are many reasons people find themselves in emergency situations, she says. “Partly they don’t have the skills and capacity to plan properly, though if you’re living on only $604 a month, it doesn’t matter how well you plan.” Joblessness, depression, physical issues and the lack of affordable housing increase the chances of a person becoming isolated. “The average rent right now for a single person is $585, and there are not many units available.” Add to that other expenses, such as telephone or medication, and you quickly become cut off from regular social interaction, Soutar says. “You want a cup of coffee, but have no money, no bus fare to the library and you are driven to isolation that spirals to poor health and depression. What we try to do is find those people who have been cut off and if we’re able to offer a meal, we can encourage them to sit a little bit longer and maybe then talk about other problems in their life.”
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Ironically, some of the most vulnerable clients at the Depot would qualify for such additional help as a shelter allowance if only they knew how to apply for it. Volunteers at the Depot help clients fill out their tax forms and try to make sure they don’t get cut off from or miss the help they so urgently need.
“In one case we found this lady was living on $400 a month—she was not receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement.”
Many don’t ask for help, Soutar says, because they are ashamed to.
In another case Soutar described, appliances were removed from a senior’s home for her own safety. “There is no kettle, microwave or stove because she forgets and leaves things on. She has been waiting for two years to get a residential placement and the only thing she can do is walk up to the local café for something hot. People waiting for long term placement should not be left to cope on their own.”
To raise money for emergency food baskets, the N.D.G. Food Depot is selling unique advent calendars, where each little window up to December 24 of this year represents a chance to win a prize donated by a local business, such as a week in a condo at Mont Tremblant, or hockey tickets for a Canadiens game.
Donating time, cash or food are ways of tangibly helping the Food Depot year-round. “We can always use canned meat and fish, pasta, rice, lentils, baked beans, canned soups, snacks for school lunches. Not everyone can cook, so something easy to heat up like stew is great.” The Depot serves 700 people each week. “An unbelievable 15 per cent of our recipients are seniors,” Soutar says. “This is unacceptable in our society.”
The December Prize Calendar 2013 may be purchased from the Depot for $10 until December 20. 514-485-4680, depotndg.org.