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The ‘Saint’ behind rare Meals on Wheels club

Midge Sandiland should be awarded the Saint of the Year Award says Jim Garvie, a Leacrest Rd. resident for 55 years.

Garvie, now in his 80s, says Sandiland goes out of her way to help people, and he is happy to take advantage. He’s doing it as a member of her Diners’ Club, a bit of a rare outgrowth of the East York Meals on Wheels (EYMOW) program.

The club has been in place since 1979 when the EYMOW board got a government grant to help start up a new program to get people out of their homes, and to a social event, with a meal cooked in the kitchen at Leaside United Church and served in the Hearth Room there.

Sandiland has been involved since those early days, and is now the Diners’ Club coordinator for EYMOW.

Today’s meals are luncheons in local restaurants or community centres that make deals with Sandiland for her group of 15 to 20 for each outing. The members don’t have to get there themselves. Sandiland arranges free transportation by volunteers, from home and back. She also books after-lunch entertainment, such as a singing group or pianist, at many of her events.

The cost is low, depending on what’s arranged with each restaurant, but Sandiland estimates that if you booked for all eight luncheons a month it would cost about $75.

She supervises a crew of volunteers who regularly phone people who have asked to be on the club list. There is no fee to be on it, and you can choose to attend as few or as many of the events as you wish. The volunteers who drive can choose to stay for lunch too, or just provide the door-to-door transportation each way.

One of the local venues is The Millwood at 921 Millwood Rd. Gail Alexis, the director of community relations there, regards providing a locale as “paying it forward”. Another is the Golden Griddle at 146 Laird Dr., where Sashi Thadathil has owned this location for the past 14 years and has always been helpful to community efforts. His involvement might come to an end, though, depending on what happens with the proposed redevelopment on that site.

Garvie, who got involved as a volunteer driver when he retired but gave up driving when he turned 80, tries to attend once a week, if he’s not travelling. It’s a welcome change, he says, from visiting friends who aren’t well. You might recognize his name from over 30 years coaching and managing with the Leaside Hockey Association, or from his many years with baseball at Talbot Park.

Another local attendee is Ilse Hoben, of Brentcliffe Rd. She too started as a volunteer driver after her retirement, but has now “graduated” to being driven. She fits in her Diners’ Club luncheons around her various volunteer commitments with the Parish of St. Anselm.

To volunteer as a driver, phoner, or a helper at a community centre event, or if you’d like to attend a luncheon, call 416-424 3322, or email admin@eastyorkmealsonwheels.org.