The global pandemic that has forced the closure of schools and driven teenagers inside for uncomfortably long periods of time, has not stood in the way of Nicholas Gaetano, a Grade 10 student at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS), looking to serve his community and make a difference.
While many in Gaetano’s community were reconsidering their future plans and moving them indoors, March Break for Gaetano included time spent exploring several different options to complete his 20 hours of community service required of all Grade 10 students at SMCS.
“I thought about it for a while and decided to volunteer with Meals on Wheels. It seems like a charity that really makes a difference with elderly and people with a mobility impairment,” says Gaetano. “We provide an absolutely necessary service to our clients.”
Once his decision was made, Gaetano underwent the required training and began volunteering every Sunday.
“We start at 11 a.m. every Sunday and deliver hot meals to the clients who we have been assigned to that day,” explains Gaetano. “It usually takes about two hours to complete our route. We pick the meals up at the Meals on Wheels office at Yonge and Sheppard.”
Safety during this time is of paramount concern and Meals on Wheels has responded by providing masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer for the volunteers. The delivery method has also been adjusted to accommodate physical distancing.
“This volunteer work is even more important now because our clients are high risk and should stay indoors,” says Gaetano. “In some cases, they have no way of safely feeding themselves without our services.”
Gaetano’s mother, Rhonda Kotlarchuk, who started volunteering at Meals on Wheels before Nicholas joined, is happy to see her son making a difference.
“We are proud of Nicholas for taking this on,” says Kotlarchuk. “As parents, we are even happier that he’s continuing to volunteer even though his required volunteer hours are now complete, and because it is risky to be out in the community right now.”
With no end in sight, Gaetano plans to continue volunteering at Meals on Wheels for the foreseeable future.
“The satisfaction on the clients’ faces when we deliver the meals is so rewarding,” says Gaetano. “The office staff is also very friendly, and I enjoy volunteering with my mother and the one-on-one time we have.”