For Leona Kowaluk, the Meals on Wheels service is about more than just a warm meal.
When the Brandon senior dealt with debilitating back pain, the daily food delivery program gave her some piece of mind, knowing someone would be checking in on her.
"Somebody came to the door every day. If I happened to be laying on the floor or something, I knew somebody would be coming," she said. "It gives you a feeling of security."
Kowaluk has been taking part in the Meals on Wheels program for the past few years, after her daughter signed her up.
"At that time I could hardly get around," Kowaluk said.
She is a bit more mobile now, but this winter’s brutally cold temperatures have made for a challenging few months.
"I haven’t been going out, period," Kowaluk said. "My legs are not that dependable. I just won’t go out now to walk because they just stop and I’ve got to stand there."
Through the sub-zero weather and bone-chilling wind, the dedicated volunteers at Meals on Wheels continue to brave the elements to deliver warm meals to people like Kowaluk — one of many clients who depend on the program for reliable, nutritious meals.
The program, co-ordinated through the Prairie Oasis Senior Centre, delivers between 50 and 90 meals daily Monday to Friday to seniors, shut-ins and people with disabilities.
The service has been operating in Brandon for the past 30 years, and is designed to meet the needs of people who are unable to prepare nutritious meals due to age, illness or disability. The charitable organization helps those who cannot manage to grocery shop during the cold winter months, who are not able to use kitchen appliances or who are recovering from an injury. Currently, meals cost $8 each.
The Brandon Sun went on a ride-along with one of the Meals on Wheels volunteers on Tuesday. Jack Gullett, 82, delivers meals every week and volunteers in the kitchen as well.
"Well, I live by myself, I got nothing to do," he said. "I like to help people out."
Just before the volunteers set out on their deliveries, a box of tulips from the Manitoba Lung Association arrived at the centre. Staff quickly split them up to ensure each delivery included a bunch of fresh tulips.
One of the first stops was the residence of Roland Jones, who receives meals three times a week.
Jones said it has been a great program to be a part of and has been a client for "a long time."
The winter has been colder than usual in the Prairies — February in Brandon was on average six degrees lower than normal. Wind chill factors have regularly been below -40 C.
Maxine Tacan, who took over as executive director for Prairie Oasis Senior Centre in December, said she was concerned about the extreme temperatures, and wondered if they would have to cancel some deliveries.
She soon found out that wouldn’t be necessary.
"The drivers are here in the minus 40 weather, not complaining," she said. "They just deliver the meals. They know that there are seniors that need to get the meals."
Longtime volunteer Mary Letkeman said the program is a great way to help seniors continue to live in their own home.
"I enjoy the clients, I get to know them and I become friends," she said. "I spend a little time with each one because it breaks up their day."