The Iron Range of Minnesota has once again suffered a setback with the closing of the iron mines, the major employers in the area. Because of this, other businesses have closed, also. Many younger family members have left the area seeking employment, or intend to.
This leaves many of the frail and elderly in the community without grocery stores in their towns. Many have no way to get to the larger communities to get food as they no longer drive and have no one to assist them. The social system is already burdened with requests for assistance, so solutions had to be found within the affected communities.
Recognizing this, the Elder Services Network has coordinated volunteers to shop and deliver food weekly in six Iron Range communities. The senior calls the order to the office where volunteers write it up and fax it to the participating stores. Then, ESN finds volunteers to shop the following day and deliver to the seniors. The senior will mail their checks directly to the store so the volunteer does not have that responsibility. ESN also provides a daily telephone reassurance call to those requesting it. These things enable the seniors to remain in their own homes longer.
Volunteers come from all avenues in the communities. Many are retired persons themselves. More and more young professionals are responding to this need. Even delivering when it is 20 degrees below zero. Also, students from Student Learning Classes and honor students have responded to this need. The past year, 156 volunteers delivered 1,265 grocery orders to seniors in Gilbert, Eveleth, Virginia, Mountain Iron, Chisholm and Hibbing. The list of seniors grows weekly. To date there are 118 taking advantage of this volunteer service. There is never a charge for the seniors.
This organization also works to bring the younger seniors into the Senior Centers. They find volunteers to teach the computer skills they need to access the Internet. They can job search, trace ancestors, join other seniors in conversation, join recipe and card clubs, or keep in touch with children and grandchildren. The response to the computer classes has been great. Seniors from 50 to 90 feel they can be in touch with the world.