The rain never stays for too long in the Bay of Plenty, but even if it does, Janice and Garry Graham have developed the perfect system to deliver Meals on Wheels, regardless of the weather.

The pair, who has been married for 48 years, has an efficient way of delivering their meals. Garry, who knows his way around Tauranga, is behind the wheel. While Janice stands ready on the front passenger seat with the list of addresses for the day and a chilly bin full of hot meals.

Garry usually parks as close as possible to the front door, especially when the rain makes an appearance, then Janice hops out of the car. Today, she gives a few knocks on the door, then says: “Good morning James, it’s Janice, from Meals on Wheels”.

For Meals on Wheels recipients like James Anderson, who begun using our service in 2005 after undergoing heart surgery, it’s always a pleasant visit when Red Cross volunteers come by.

“I quit enjoy the visit, I don’t mind a few good words with the volunteers,” shares James.

James receives a visit from our Meals on Wheels drivers five times a week, but on Friday, our volunteers drops off three meals, so his dinners are covered for the weekend.

New Zealand Red Cross volunteer, Janice Graham, delivering Meals on Wheels to James Anderson.

Janice knows that some of the people she visits may be quite isolated, just like James.

 “They are lovely, some are quite old and we have a chat. It’s nice meeting these people, sometimes we’re the only people they see all day,” says Janice.

After chatting to James and checking on how he is feeling today, Garry had the time to turn the car around, waiting for Janice to hop off and continue their journey together.

When Janice and Garry retired, they wanted to do something meaningful with their time. They were introduced to our Meals on Wheels service through a friend, who enjoyed her role as a driver, so they thought they would give it a go. Seven years later, the pair is still driving around Tauranga a few times a month, delivering hot meals to elderly members of their community.

An unexpected delivery

Today, the couple has nine deliveries to make on their route. Their last stop is for John Davis, an elderly man who started using our service when his wife went into care a year ago.

“It’s much easier not to have to worry about meals and not having to cook them,” shares John.

Something else John is very grateful for is a parcel recently delivered by Red Cross. As a part of a nationwide initiative, more than 6,000 Kiwi households across Aotearoa who have been hard hit by COVID-19, including our Meals on Wheels recipients, received a Red Cross Parcel.

Each parcel, filled with essential goods with a wellbeing focus to remind struggling Kiwis that they have not been forgotten, includes hygiene items, groceries, blankets and treats.

When asked about the recent Red Cross Parcel John received, his eyes light up. John stands up and walks to the other room. A minute later, he returns with the empty box and explains:

“I was so happy to receive this parcel that I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing the box away,” said John while holding the empty Red Cross Parcel, which he had safely kept in his garage.

“I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t know why I was receiving a parcel, it was very unexpected, but very generous and thoughtful. There was nothing I disliked in the parcel.”

John Davis, holding the empty Red Cross Parcel.

Meals on Wheels

Thanks to volunteer drivers like Janie and Garry, Meals on Wheels is one of our longest standing and most recognised community programmes – and one that is much appreciated by the recipients. More than just a carrier of hot meals, we deliver independence to many elderly and disabled people, as well as those recovering from illness or hospital treatment.

But most importantly, the service provides much needed regular social contact for the Meals on Wheels recipients. During COVID-19 Alert Level 3 and 4, Meals on Wheels was granted essential service status, which meant our volunteers were able to deliver more than 103,500 meals to isolated members of communities across Aotearoa.

Inspired? Become a Meals on Wheels driver today.