Meals on Meals on Wheels Canadien

Meals on Meals on Wheels Canadien

Meals on Wheels Canadien was born of the determination of two young university graduates students, David Remy and Robert Doussard, who were looking for their first full-time jobs. Choosing to stay in Montréal at a time when jobs were scarce, they opted to build an organization that gave them meaningful employment, provided the same to other young people, and offered an essential service to isolated seniors.


Founded in 1995, Meals on Wheels Canadien is an intergenerational Meals-on-Wheels service founded and run by young people in Montréal, Canada. This organization uses food as a vehicle to address social and economic isolation between generations, and to strengthen the local community.


The concept is simple: food is prepared in a central kitchen in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood and is then delivered on foot, by bike, and by car across the city. The Meals-on-Wheels program connects and nourishes seniors or people living with a loss of autonomy in addition to providing meaningful experience and employment for young people in the community. Meals on Wheels Canadien is currently the largest independent Meals-on-Wheels organization in Montréal, and the only one run entirely by young people.


Meals on Wheels Canadien is a lean operation, with annual expenditures of slightly more than $600,000. Only 20% of its funding comes from various levels of governments; the bulk of its revenue is provided by donors (foundations, individuals, and corporations), clients (payment for the food delivery service), fundraising events, and social enterprise.


A defining feature of the organization is its very flexible work environment, similar to o a “functional family” setting where employees have job titles but it’s understood that when there is work to be done it will be shared; one individual may be designated as the lead, but everyone pitches in. Volunteers, staff and clients are equally valued. In 2004 Meals on Wheels Canadien became membership-driven, providing ample opportunity for volunteers, staff, clients and donors to influence the operation in a structured way. The organization is a breeding ground for new ideas, and staff and volunteers are encouraged to pursue these as far as they can.


The organization has been phenomenally successful in delivering on its mission. It is also recognized for its ability to engage young people and volunteers at a time when many other very well-established agencies struggle to find ways to involve both these groups.


The staff team is made up of ten full-time and two part-time employees and is supported by a network of more than 500 volunteers, who annually contribute almost



50,000 hours of work to the organization. Many core positions, including managers, are funded through six-month skills development government contracts. Staff turnover occurs at the rate of about two or more senior positions per year. The volunteer turnover rate is in excess of 45% annually.


The Staff

David Remy, Co-Founder

David started Meal-on-Wheels Canadien with Robert Dusard when they were both undergraduate students at McGill University in Montréal. He received a Master’s Degree in Social Responsibility and Governance from Université du Québec à Montréal. His entire working career has been with MoWC.


Robert Doussard, Co-Founder

Robert started Meal-on-Wheels Canadien with David Remy when they were both undergraduate students at McGill University in Montréal. He received a Master’s Degree in Social Responsibility and Governance from Université du Québec à Montréal. His entire working career has been with MoWC.


Carole Badeaux, Senior Manager

Carole started at Meal-on-Wheels Canadien when she was a freshman student at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Just before she graduated in 2009 MoWC received a grant from the Québec provincial government and Robert offered her a supervisory role working with volunteers. Due to both her performance and paid staff turnover, she has become the most senior manager in the organization.


Nicole Aubertin, Administrative Supervisor

Nicole started at Meal-on-Wheels Canadien when she was a sophomore at McGill University. She graduated in 2014 with a degree in Human Resources Management. Carole felt the administration of MoWC was thin and jumped at the chance to hire her. Since she started Nicole has struggled to get traction, reporting simultaneously to both Carole and Thomas Labell.


Thomas Labell, Manager

Thomas started at Meal-on-Wheels Canadien when he was a freshman at LaSalle College. Carole Badeaux was his volunteer coordinator. He graduated with a degree in Hotel Management and secured a job with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in Ottawa where he worked for 2 years. He returned to Montréal in 2014 when his wife began



Master’s Degree work at Université du Québec à Montréal. Unable to find suitable work, we was connected with David Remy by one of his wife’s professors. David was impressed with Thomas’s people management experience and offered him a management role with MoWC. Although the salary was far below what he had been making in Ottawa, he decided to take the role since he expected to be in Montréal for only a couple of years. He and his wife both expect to be in Toronto by 2017.


The Challenge

The employees and volunteers of Meals on Wheels Canadien were nervous; none could remember a general meeting being called by David or Robert since the organization had started. The buzz in the crowded room died down as the founders worked their way into the space. Neither of them were great public speakers and they looked uncomfortable. David cleared his throat and began speaking. “When Robert and I started this organization we had no idea it would become so successful. It is truly a testimony to the great things that can be accomplished by student volunteers and committed staff. Robert and I could not be prouder of all of you. And that’s what makes this so hard.” He paused and said “Robert and I will be leaving at the end of the month. I will be moving to Edmonton where my wife has secured a wonderful job opportunity. Robert is moving Windsor to take the reins of a struggling not-for-profit. An audible gasp rose from the room, and many employees began shouting questions.


David motioned for quiet and soon the room was still except for muffled sobbing. He looked genuinely pained. “Robert and I will be working with the management team to begin working on transition immediately following this meeting. “ People once again began shouting questions. David shouted that all of their questions would be answered in the coming days and then he and Robert hurriedly left the room.


“That was brutal,” said Robert. “Not as tough as the meeting we’re going to now,” said David. They walked into the staff meeting room. Sitting in an odd collection of used office chairs were the 6 paid senior staff members looking glum. Carole, the most senior manager, spoke first. “David and Robert, you both know I have the utmost respect for you and everything you have built here, but you both leaving at the same time might just put this organization under. The others nodded in assent. She continued, “I appreciate the call last night and the advance warning of your announcement, but frankly I am still reeling and don’t know where to start on transition.” The others nodded again. Robert spoke. “Look I know this has hit your hard, but we have to put all of the cards on the table now. The fact is our finances have not kept up with our demands. When cash got too tight we started skipping payments to the government for tax withholding and other payments. The team gasped. Nicole, the youngest and newest manager blurted out, “How could you?” David looked at her and said “It really was not that hard a decision; pay the government or feed the elderly with no one else to care for them. It wasn’t that hard.” Robert continued, “The



government served us notice yesterday that they expect repayment forthwith, and we simply don’t have the money.” “Can it possibly get any worse?” said Sarah acidly.


“Actually, it can.” said Thomas. He was the second most senior manager and, like Carole, had started out as a student volunteer more than a decade ago. He continued “I‘ve been trying to handle this myself, but since we are all “putting our cards on the table” you should know that I have been fielding a number of serious staff complaints, and frankly I’m over my head.” “What type of complaints?” asked Carole. Thomas replied. “No one understands why some people are paid more than others doing the same job, or even paid at all when so many jobs are performed by volunteers. We have been stretched to the max making meal deliveries because too many people have either misunderstood their schedule, thought someone else was covering for them, or some other reason. Some people think they have earned over-time pay but we don’t have a record. We have always handled these issues on a case by case basis, but employees don’t understand why one gets a longer workweek than another. Individualized decision making is starting to look like favoritism. Finally, the last round of funding we received paid for two new staff positions, but the type of work they are permitted to do is quite inflexible whereas we are built on flexibility. And the meeting you just had certainly did us no favors with the volunteers and non-management staff.”


“So what’s the plan? “, asked Carole. “Who is going to be leading us at the beginning of next month?” David responded. “Robert and I had a conference call with the Board of Directors late yesterday afternoon. As we have no obvious successor, the Board will take over day-to-day management when we leave. “Who on the Board will I report to?” asked Carole. David frowned. “Well all of them, I suppose,” he said. “How practical is that?” asked Thomas. Robert replied, “Look Thomas, I’m sure you and the rest of the team will work out those sorts of details.” David stood up. “Everyone, this will not be our last transition meeting. The Board will be out here tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. and we’ll get into the nitty gritty. Right now Robert and I have to leave for a series of meetings with major donors and supporters before the press release goes out at 3:30 p.m.” As David and Robert walked out of the room, Carole called out “What do we tell the employees and volunteers?”




1. Was Meals on Wheels properly scaled during its growth? (10 points). a. Start by defining the term ‘scaling’ as it applies to organizations b. Identify 2 things that the management team could have done differently in

order to effectively scale the organization more successfully?


2. In looking at the management team, propose an organization chart for Meals on Wheels based on its needs as you perceive them. Who, if any, of the existing

management team would fill these roles based on the biographies provided, and why?

Are there any necessary positions that cannot be filled with the existing team? (10




3. The organization does not appear to have a succession plan. Why are succession plans important? Identify 3 developmental opportunities that would be required for

someone to ascend to executive leadership within Meals on Wheels? (10 points).


4. Identify a minimum of 4 HR functional areas and their processes that could be improved within Meals on Wheels. Be sure to explain why you chose them. (20



5. What, if anything, was wrong with the communication in leadership change? What would you do differently? (10 points).

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