Contributed by Mavis Jones, OntarioMD Manager, Business Insight & Evaluation
Working in the health sector can be a source of pride. Everything we do at OntarioMD helps over 17,000 clinicians across the province effectively use the digital health tools in their practice, which in turn helps patients access responsive care and live healthier lives.
In any job, however, there are days when the connection between the work and its meaning can seem tenuous at best. A great antidote for those days? Volunteering for an organization that helps build a stronger community, like Dixon Hall’s Meals on Wheels program. Dixon Hall has been OntarioMD’s charity of choice for more than year, and as we heard from CEO Mercedes Watson at our December 2019 Town Hall, our contributions to the organization are making a tremendous difference – and not just with Meals on Wheels, but with the wide range of Dixon Hall programs and services that impact housing, children and youth, employment and other key factors that are so important to full and equitable participation in a community.
A team of OntarioMD employees set out from our office in Toronto one sunny Thursday afternoon this month to walk to Dixon Hall. We were warmly welcomed by staff, given some ground rules and then provided with insulated bags filled with hot meals to deliver to seniors across the downtown Regent Park community.
As those who work in the health space know, seniors are over-represented in complex chronic conditions, which for many means mobility issues, dietary challenges, and vision or hearing limitations that may prevent them from getting out to access healthy food (or even just preparing their own meals). Meals delivery services like Dixon Hall’s Meals on Wheels not only provides people with affordable, nutritious meals; for some, the volunteer delivering the food may be the only face they’ll see all day, so it’s an opportunity to connect, check in and make sure all is well.
Our driver went through our route list and gave us key advice and insights like “if they’re not home, leave it in the building’s office,” “this client appreciates the opportunity to chat,” and “don’t take the stairwell because you won’t have a fob to get out.” Like a school orienteering exercise, we paired up to navigate several highrise buildings until we had delivered the 30 or so meals that had been loaded into the van. Anthony delivered a meal to a gentleman who said very kind things in appreciation of the service, to which Anthony responded that we’re lucky to work for an employer who supports efforts to give back to the community.
This amazing experience was over for us almost too quickly, and we dropped off the bags and headed into the sunshine to walk back to work. But more of our colleagues at OntarioMD will have the opportunity to deliver meals for Dixon Hall Meals on Wheels throughout January and February, and we learned there may be more opportunities for us in future. Dixon Hall Donor Stewardship Officer Cassie McIndoo told us that the organization hosts weekly community dinners and breakfasts, where a classically trained chef provides healthy meals. Corporate sponsors like OntarioMD can encourage employees to volunteer with food preparation, service, and to just be there to share a friendly face and a chat with clients as they enjoy their meal.
As my colleague Anthony pointed out, OntarioMD staff are fortunate to work at a place that understands that employees are more than just our jobs and finds ways to help us connect with our community in such an important way. Thanks to Dixon Hall for the chance to volunteer – we look forward to the next opportunity to give back!