Serving more than 20 areas in southwest North Dakota, Elder Care provides seniors a hot meal, five days a week. But with the widespread meal programming comes a shortage of deliverers to keep the program running smoothly.

Currently, Elder Care has three meal deliverers and is working on acquiring two more, but is open to the option if someone would want to volunteer as a back-up driver, Executive Director Colleen Rodakowski said.

The Dickinson Police Department volunteers twice a month to help deliver meals. In the past, the Stark County Sheriff’s Office and local banks have also volunteered services to Elder Care. Rodakowski noted that it’s a great opportunity for local entities or organizations to give back to their community by picking up a shift when they can.

“It's nice if they can do once a week... but we want to work with whoever wants to help us… because it's hard for us sometimes to find somebody a couple hours a day,” Rodakowski said. “And that's why it's nice when the banks come help us or the police department or sheriff you, but sometimes they can only do like twice a month. So then we have to find somebody (for) the other days.”

With five routes throughout the city of Dickinson, Meal Program Coordinator Dawn Woodell said deliverers typically work two hours Monday through Friday and between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

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“We all have aging parents and grandparents. We appreciate people helping (and) making sure they get fed,” Woodell said. “That is our passion here is to make sure people that can’t get out and can’t do their shopping, (they) get a meal every day and just the social (interaction) to be able to visit with them. We’re probably the only people they see every day.”

Rodakowski added, “Some of our seniors that get meals, they don’t have much company or family or friends, and the only person they’ll see sometimes is our meal deliverer handing them a meal.”

Other elderly community members may not be able to cook their own meals anymore or it becomes overwhelming from preparing the meal, eating and then clean-up. Elder Care is able to provide hot meals without the hassle, Rodakowski added.

“We work to provide that nutritional meal to help a senior with their overall well-being and to help them remain independent in their home as long as possible. That's Elder Care’s mission to help seniors remain independent in their home as long as possible. And cooking food is probably the first thing that becomes a struggle,” Rodakowski said, adding, “It's hard because sometimes they're alone. They've lost their spouse (and) it's not as fun to eat alone.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, Elder Care has not opened its congregate meal sites. But Rodakowski noted that the nonprofit agency has been working to provide a distant touch of normalcy to Dickinson’s elderly population with its meal delivery services and the social interaction that provides.

“Elder Care is very grateful… of how our community helps all people in need by giving back,” she said. “Dickinson is a wonderful place to live because so many people do give back and see a need. We’re happy to be serving our seniors especially during the COVID pandemic.”

The meal program is donation-based with a suggested contribution of $5 per meal.

Elder Care is hoping the season of giving will bear more community members to step up and volunteer as a deliverer.

“Any help we can get is wonderful,” Woodell said, adding that there are options for volunteerism and potential employment.

For those additional inquiries on how to become a meal deliverer or to apply to receive meals, call 701-483-1818.