Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Meals on Wheels duo a great comfort

Senior calls mother and daughter true friends

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When Doreen Leverick broke her wrist about seven months ago, she was having trouble doing some of her favourite hobbies such as knitting, reading and even basic daily needs such as cooking.

Though the 80-year-old English woman has family living in Winnipeg, she lives by herself in a seniors community and could struggle if she didn't have the use of both her hands.

When it was suggested Leverick start using Meals on Wheels Winnipeg, a mobile food delivery service that delivers hot, nutritious meals to people in need, she didn't know she would form a bond with an unlikely friend.

Leverick recalls the day she first met Samantha Novak, a 13-year-old who has volunteered with Meals on Wheels for two years. The eighth-grader delivers meals every Sunday with her mother, who acts as her delivery driver.

"She was so pleased when she first came. She said 'I'm the volunteer, not my mother.' But they are quite the pair and they are just such a joy to have once a week. She'll always stay and we'll have a little visit, which I so much enjoy."

Doreen even recalls when Sam broke her foot and would hobble in on crutches without fail every Sunday to bring Leverick her lunch and dinner.

"I admire her so much for giving up her time. Time is so precious now, and I don't have any young children in my family anymore. I just really thank them for what they do," Leverick said.

Gemma Eko-Davis, who works as volunteer co-ordinator with Meals on Wheels Winnipeg, said stories like Leverick's and Novak's are not uncommon. Eko-Davis said the volunteers are as important to the clients as the meals they deliver.

In order to keep the wheels running, the United Way donates about $78,000 annually to Meals on Wheels. This support is part of an ongoing initiative by the United Way to inspire action and change throughout Winnipeg's communities.

"We're not a government agency. So without contributions from the United Way, we couldn't provide such a vital service and such giving volunteers for our clients," Eko-Davis said.

Sam's mother and faithful driver, Traci Booth, said her daughter's work with Meals on Wheels has opened her daughter's eyes to a different side of Winnipeg.

"We're not wealthy by any means, but we're middle-class and there's really not much that we want for. I think that delivering, especially in the core area, because we don't only deliver to the elderly... I think it's really shown her a different side of life. It shows her just how fortunate she is," said Booth.

But when asked to name the best part of volunteering, Sam points to her daily visits with Leverick.

"We realize how happy we make them. When we see them smile, it makes me sad, but happy that they do care and they do want to see us. We may be the only visitors that they see all week," Novak said. "And I'll keep doing it as long as my mom will drive me."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2012 B2

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