Saturday mornings start early for Iqbal Alimohd and his wife, Mumtaz.
They're at Real Canadian Superstore well before it opens, ready to buy and deliver groceries for dozens of Calgary seniors — just as they've been doing every weekend for more than 15 years.
Iqbal, a Checker Cabs driver, said this all began with his regular clients.
"With time going by, I see they're not doing good," he told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday. "And then I told them, 'From now on, I buy your groceries, because you [don't have] much energy left.' "
He said what started with two or three clients grew as the seniors started talking to each other.
Donating their time
The operation now serves 20 to 25 people, and keeping everything organized is no small feat. During the week, Mumtaz takes phone orders and tracks them in a spreadsheet.
On the weekend, they commandeer up to eight shopping carts and have a designated cashier aisle at Superstore. They'll spend two to three hours there before heading to several specialty grocery stores. Then Iqbal delivers and unpacks everything.
The day isn't done until 7 p.m. most weeks, but the time is something they give for free.
Iqbal, who turns 70 this year, charges only what he pays for the groceries. "But my service, my daytime gas, I just charge nothing."
Their sons, Faisal Alimohd and Yasin Alimohamed, started helping with grocery runs during the pandemic so their parents wouldn't have to spend as much time in public. They feel like their father's weekly tradition has always been part of their lives.
"It was such a big commitment that whenever we would want to travel or go anywhere, he would be like, 'Well, what are my seniors going to do on Saturday?' " recalled Faisal.
But it's something they now look forward to each week.
More than just groceries
Yasin says delivering groceries is just a small part of what Iqbal does.
"I think the rest of it is so much more impactful," he said. "He becomes part of their family."
Iqbal spends hours socializing with the seniors, driving them to appointments and doing anything else he can to help. It's always been something he kept quiet.
Faisal said they didn't realize how much was involved beyond buying and delivering groceries until they would hear from seniors or their children or get thank-you notes.
Sometimes, he says, there are children of seniors who tell him, "Your dad's been there when we haven't been able to be there."
Karim Merali is one of those children. Iqbal delivered groceries to his parents, and when Merali's mother died five years ago, Iqbal visited or called his dad almost every day.
"He knew when people needed some companionship," said Merali.
Act of kindness
Yasin says his dad is a firm believer in "work, no words."
"He doesn't look for gratitude or a pat on the back from anyone."
He said the act of kindness itself gives his father "a sense of why he's here."
Yasin and Faisal say Iqbal is probably embarrassed by the attention he's getting, but they're glad he's being recognized.
"It's uplifting in the sense that I hope other people may take up on it [and] pay it forward," Faisal said.
With files from Jennifer Dorozio and the Calgary Eyeopener.