Muriel has recently celebrated her 94th birthday. She’s been receiving Meals on Wheels for such a long time that she can’t recall when it all started, but she remembers her GP recommended the service to her. She lives on her own and has few interactions with people during the day.

Muriel’s story is one of many which inspired Monica Bearlsey, New Zealand Red Cross Community Activator in the Waikato, to think outside of the lunchbox in planning for New Zealand Red Cross’ national emergency preparedness campaign, Good and Ready.

“Elderly are some of the most vulnerable people in our community. People are often on their own, which means they could be isolated in a disaster,” explains Monica.

That’s why Monica organised a week of emergency tips on wheels, aimed at ensuring the elderly community is prepared before a disaster strikes.

Resources such as Good and Ready brochures with tips including stocking canned food and water, connecting with your neighbours and fixing shelving, Civil Defence’s check list and Red Cross’ Hazard App flyers were distributed to Meals on Wheels recipients along with their hot meal.

Our Meals on Wheels service has a long history of doing good in Aotearoa – it’s one of New Zealand Red Cross’ oldest services. The very first Meals on Wheels delivery goes back to 1951, when Red Cross volunteers distributed soup for people in need during a gas, coal and electricity shortage in North Canterbury.

Fast-forward almost seventy years, and you’ll find Red Cross volunteer drivers dropping off hot meals prepared by the District Health Board to people in need across the country. Every year, our volunteers deliver more than 600,000 meals. That is nearly 12,000 meals a week!

Muriel, a Meals on Wheels beneficiary in Hamilton.

“It’s like a main meal. It would be hard without Meals on Wheels. I’m very grateful to get them. I eat them while they are hot. And I like the volunteers too,” explains Muriel.

“It’s nice to have the volunteers come over – they are very friendly people. That’s what we need, being friendly one to another. It’s often the same people, so I recognise most of them. It’s very good. They’re doing a good job.”

Muriel was pleased with the information she received, all the brochures and check list were meticulously placed to one side of her dining table. She wanted to make sure her children or grandchildren would see it all the next time they came to visit.

“We wanted to make sure they are prepared, that their family members are prepared, their neighbours too. We want it to have a roll-on effect,” says Monica

The innovative idea was also aiming at getting Meals on Wheels drivers good and ready for a disaster.

“Our volunteer drivers were hesitant at first, but then they warmed up to it and asked for extra resources. It’s important that our drivers are ready too, so they can help their community when there is a disaster.”

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