Volunteer Nancy Bowness Has Been Putting the “Wheels” Into Meals on Wheels for Over 40 Years

2023 News_Nancy B. Volunteer1

As we look forward to National Volunteer Week, April 16 to 22, 2023, we are so grateful for the strong commitment of the many volunteers who help us to build healthier communities every day. Here is a look at one incredible VON volunteer who has been serving people in need for over 40 years.

Nobody knows the impact of a healthy meal more than Nancy Bowness. Nancy has been putting nutritious meals into the hands of those who need them since the seventies. She is one of the friendly, caring volunteers delivering meals through VON’s Meals on Wheels program in North Bay, Ontario.

“Nancy was one of the early volunteers over 40 years ago,” says Terry-Lynn Gravelle, Meals on Wheels Coordinator. “She is an absolute delight to work with. The other volunteers love her and think she is such a sweetheart and so do the clients.”
Meals on Wheels makes good nutrition more accessible for isolated seniors and individuals with disabilities. The program provides clients with tasty, healthy and affordable meal options conveniently in their own homes, helping them to maintain independence.

Nancy joined the Meals on Wheels program when it was run by community members at a grassroots level. She had left her career as a busy physical education teacher and coach to care for her children, but was looking for another outlet for her energies. “I wasn’t going to sit on my rear end and do nothing,” she says. She began delivering meals and recruiting volunteers for the three designated routes at the time.

Today, she continues to deliver meals regularly. She is thankful that VON handles volunteer recruitment so she can focus on getting meals to the people who need them. 

Meals on Wheels volunteers also provide important safety checks for vulnerable clients who might experience isolation. “It’s the friendly face and making sure that they're well,” she says. 

Nancy, who is 82, is also a volunteer ambassador at North Bay Regional Health Centre, loves to walk and does fitness classes four times a week. Some might say she’s put in enough time as a volunteer, but Nancy has a simple yet powerful philosophy: “I think life is not a free ride,” she says. “I think everybody should volunteer.”

She enjoys the time spent with another volunteer in the vehicle. “You just chit chat and laugh and carry on and it's faster too when you go with somebody else,” she points out. “It really is a great thing to volunteer, and it's always been pleasant or I wouldn't have done it that long.”

Nancy is also rewarded by the gratitude clients express. “You just have to look at the smile on their face when you bring them a meal,” she says. “They’re so thankful.”