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John Maurice and his wife Ann dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus before making their deliveries for Meals on Wheels Fort Erie on Wednesday.

Santa Stops By with Dinner

Santa Meals on Wheels a delight for Fort Erie customers

Dec 22, 2017 by James Culic Fort Erie Post

FORT ERIE — As he walks into the loading zone at Gilmore Lodge, one of the caretakers, a young woman, walks out to greet him.

“Hello Santa,” she said. “I’ve been a very good girl this year, so I want a big, fat diamond.”
Without missing a beat, Santa fired back, “Well you know how a diamond starts right? As a big, fat lump of coal.”

John Maurice is a very good Santa. As he should be; by his recollection he’s been donning the red suit for nearly two decades now. And for the last 12 of those years, he’s been making one very special Santa visit in Fort Erie. While most of his other Santa duties involve entertaining and delighting young children,

Maurice always makes room on his busy Santa schedule to help out with the annual Santa Meals on Wheels deliveries.

Through his work with the Fort Erie Rotary Club and other events, Maurice suits up as Santa a lot over the holidays. One thing that has always struck him is the fact that the senior citizens he visits during Meals on Wheel deliveries are just as excited, if not more so, than the children he entertains at various Santa events.

“I think it has a lot to do with the fact that so many of the Meals on Wheels customers are housebound,” said Maurice. “It’s sad but many of them are shut-ins, and they may not get a lot of visitors — or any at all — over the holidays. So I think when they open the door and see Santa delivering their meal, it really brightens their day.”

It’s certainly something that many Meals on Wheels customers in Fort Erie seem to look forward to, as program manager Nicole Marshall can attest.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls, asking if Santa is coming or when he’ll be making his delivery,” she said. “People really do look forward to this.”

As Santa made his rounds this year — joined by Mrs. Claus this time — there was an extra special treat as well: 100 frozen turkey dinners donated by Canadian Tire Financial Services.

Alongside the Santa delivery, more than 100 volunteers are the lifeblood that keeps Meals on Wheels going in Fort Erie. But as their army of volunteers ages — and some transition from volunteer to customer — the need for new drivers and helpers grows every year. As does the need for donations.

“Especially around this time of the year, some of our clients stretch their budgets pretty thin and spend their dollars on Christmas presents for their grandkids,” said Marshall. “If someone finds themselves unable to pay, we always try to find a way to cover that cost, and the primary way we do that is through donations.”

All monetary donations made to Meals on Wheels Fort Erie stay right here in town, said Marshall, and donations can be made by stopping by their office inside St. Paul’s Church at 32 Idylewylde St. or by calling the office a 905-871-9366.

Fort Erie Meals on Wheels needs help

News Sep 28, 2017 Niagara Falls Review

John Newton, Tim Wisbey and Nicole Marshall from Fort Erie Meals on Wheels are looking for increased support to operate the program.
Kris Dube/Special to the Times

Fort Erie Meals on Wheels organizers are thankful for all the support it gets but will need more money and more volunteers to continue meeting the needs of the community.

Statistics show the average male client is 78 and the average female client is 80 years old.

The longest time anyone has been enrolled in the program is since August of 1994 until today.

In the last year, 20,808 meals were delivered, which is an increase of 17.3 per cent over the last year.

Agency organizers say these statistics point to need in the community for hot, nutritious food delivered to the door so that these people can remain in their own homes, as opposed to a nursing facility.

Also in Fort Erie Meals on Wheels’ last fiscal year, 17 of its 235 clients could not afford the food, and had the meal subsidized at a total cost of $18,046.

Solutions are being worked on at the agency – such as a re-evaluation of some of the eligibility criteria clients are asked to adhere to.

Program manager Nicole Marshall recently met with the 17 clients subsidized by Meals on Wheels, a difficult process, she said, to explain to some of them the price of their meals may have to increase.

“All of our subsidized clients who no longer qualify – not one of them continued Meals on Wheels service,” she said.

Money used to support clients who cannot afford the full price of a meal comes from donations.

Grateful for all the support they get, the local organization located at St. Paul’s Anglican Church on the Niagara Parkway receives 40 per cent of its budget from the provincial government, through the Hamilton-Niagara Haldimand-Brant Local Health Integration Network.

“The funding model is inequitable and something needs to be done,” said John Newton, chair of Fort Erie Meals on Wheels’ board of directors.

The amount of corporate and service club donations has declined from $25,564 to $16,660 in the last year.

A one-time foundation grant of $12,500 was received last year that helped the agency substantially, but even with that, the board had to use its modest contingency fund, pulling out $17,000 in the last 15 months.

“We want the town to know we’re still here and the frequency of dipping into this contingency budget has to be nipped in the bud,” said board treasurer Tim Wisbey.

The local organization, which has been in the community for 45 years, is also struggling for volunteers as many of their regulars are aging and becoming clients.

“We’re always jumping through hoops to get all our volunteer spots filled,” said Marshall.

Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can call 905-871-9366 or send an email to 

Upcoming Events


Our luncheons are usually held on the last Wednesday of each month (except for December).
Seniors (friends & family too) can attend for a nutritious lunch, socialization and entertainment all for a price of $8.00.
Transportation is provided for those who cannot drive themselves.
A wonderful way to spend the afternoon in a safe, relaxed environment. 

Remember, you do not have to be receiving our "hot meals" to come to the lunch, so pick up the phone and give us a call and we'll arrange the rest (905-871-9366).

Contact the office for more information.