He’s literally the driving force behind a program to bring food to seniors who need it.
Robert Forbes, founding member of the North Point Douglas Seniors Association, received a Manitoba Council on Aging Recognition Award during a ceremony held Oct. 30 at the Manitoba legislature.
The association’s Food On Wheels program has delivered countless meals to shut-in seniors in the North Point Douglas area during the 27 years Forbes has been running the program.
Forbes’ decision to start the food program came about following an award for bravery he received in 1973. Forbes, then 32 years old, was one of the Winnipeggers involved in the rescue of two children from a Patrick Street house fire. After the ordeal, Forbes realized there was more he could do to help his community.
"I figured I had to do something else," he says, adding he started the work which would become Food On Wheels soon after.
His efforts to help the community have taken several different forms over the years.
He originally delivered doughnuts which had been given to him by church groups, who had received them from grocery stores. Then he switched to preparing food on-site during his route, which led to the vehicle being swamped with requests.
These days, Forbes works with local grocers who provide him with food, which he then brings back to a central location — Barber House 55+ Centre on Euclid Avenue — and then distributes grocery bundles from there once a week. In cases where seniors are unable to pick up a bundle, they arrange to have one delivered.
To this day, Forbes continues to make the rounds, picking up groceries for the program. Recently, he’s gone as far as Portage la Prairie or Winkler to obtain items.
The association feeds about 250 people a week through the program, and there are 168 seniors living in the area. Forbes says there’s a great need for the program.
"There’s no food bank in this area at all," he says.
But it’s an uphill battle to find donations. Duck Stein, food program co-ordinator for the association, says many organizations will only donate once a year.
"Its’ very hard to get organizations to donate food of any type," Stein says.
Raymond Vilneff, groundskeeper at Barber House, notes many seniors survive solely on an old-age pension, which often isn’t enough to cover their living expenses.
"It doesn’t leave very much to buy the necessities," he says.
Vilneff says Forbes’ receipt of the aging recognition award might help to draw more attention to the cause.
"It helps promote our program… it’s something to help our seniors in the neighbourhood. They rely on their neighbourhood. They rely on their neighbours, their family and friends."
Those interested in offering support to the program can contact Rick Caslake, program manager, at (204) 947-0380.