Garry knows how to be a Meals on Wheels driver; he’s been delivering meals four times a week every week for five and half years. He thought he’d seen it all. Turns out he was wrong.

It was an Autumn morning when Garry picked up the hot meals and started his Meals on Wheels run in the suburbs of Christchurch.

Everything was going as usual. Until he reached one particular house and something immediately caught his attention.

“The drapes were still closed, but they’re normally always open. I knocked at the door and no one was there. This was out of the ordinary as Olive* is always there when I deliver her meals,” Garry says.

He knew something was up. He walked around the house and saw that the bathroom light was on.

“I knocked at the window and said ‘Olive, it’s Garry. I’ve got your meal. Are you alright?’.”

Garry could hear Olive was in the bathroom but it sounded like something was wrong. Worried that she needed help, Garry went to ask a neighbour to help him check that she was okay.

When they got inside the house, however, they found Olive lying down in her bath. She had felt too weak to get out and the only thing she could think to do was pull out the plug and put a towel over herself to keep warm. Garry immediately called 111.

Olive has now recovered from the incident. But if Garry hadn’t found her, things could have been quite different. She had already spent the whole night in her bath and could have gone into shock. Quite simply, Garry saved Olive’s life.

 “If anyone else had knocked at the door that day, they probably wouldn’t have picked up something was wrong. But after seeing people every week, you get to know everybody’s ins and outs – in this case, I knew something was wrong.”

Meals on Wheels is New Zealand Red Cross’ oldest community programmes. Our drivers have been volunteering their time to deliver meals across New Zealand since 1951; in fact, every year they deliver around 620,000 hot meals across Aotearoa. That’s nearly 12,000 every week.

For many drivers, including Garry, Meals on Wheels is more than delivering a meal.

“For some recipients, I may be the only person they will see all day. My favourite part of the job is to make them smile. It helps me as well, as I feel good that I can make other people laugh.”


*Name has been changed to protect privacy.