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Meals take seats of riders on county transit buses

Jody Eller hands out bagged lunches to residents of the Fair Oaks Apartments, an independent senior living facility, Monday morning in Wadena. She visits the seniors Monday through Friday with hot meals from the Meals on Wheels program. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
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10:44 a.m. - Candy Snyder pulls up to the Humphrey Manor Monday morning as a light drizzle wets the windshield of her Friendly Rider transit bus. Jody Eller exits the apartment complex carrying a tote full of hot meals and treats for Meals on Wheels recipients in the northern part of the county. The two head out with Snyder at the wheel and Eller seated in the front seat ready to begin dropping off the meals on a route they know well. Hot meals today, made by Hilltop Regional Kitchen staff in Eagle Bend, include mashed potatoes with gravy, beef and mushrooms, steamed veggies and pear crisp for dessert.

Candy Snyder smiles with her eyes as she exits from the Fair Oaks Apartments entry Monday morning, on to the next drop location. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Eller has been doing the work for about five months and said she loves the volunteer work.

"I'm dedicated to my work," Eller said. "I'm Gracie's little gopher." Gracie Meyer is the site manager for Lutheran Social Services Senior Dining and Meals on Wheels in Wadena, out of the Humphrey Manor building.


Snyder just recently switched from her Browerville route, driving people to and from work and whatever other reason they need to travel. Friendly Rider has seen ridership drop in half in the past few weeks since the stay at home orders went into effect, according to Friendly Rider transit director Randy Jahnke. In an effort to continue to keep drivers on the move, the transit service offers food deliveries. While area grocery stores have not been able to jump on the grocery pickup offering, the transit has three daily routes delivering the Meals on Wheels food.

Jody Eller walks bags of meals to an apartment in Wadena Monday morning. Michael Johnson/Wadena Pioneer Journal

11:12 a.m. - Snyder pulls up to the Fair Oaks Apartments. Eller wheels a large cooler into the apartment building to a table of senior women all eager to see and smell the hot meals. Shortly after the handout some of the gals offer up trades for items they would prefer.

"Just like high school," Eller said.

11:20 a.m. - "One more to go," Eller said as Snyder backs out of a driveway just outside of Wadena. While most of the meals on her route stay in Wadena, there is one delivery with a Sebeka address about 12 miles away. While the bus passes dozens of homes on the route, and many people in those homes are being told to stay home, the Meals on Wheels program has not seen an increase in people requesting meals here, according to Meyer. Snyder said it would be nice if more people would take advantage of this service of warm meals to their door.

11:35 a.m. - Rain continues as Snyder pulls up to the last stop. Eller places the food in the mail box at this site. The two pull away and Eller mentions she recently received her stimulus check and told Snyder she should be getting hers too.

11:51 a.m. - The two return to Humphrey Manor where Eller lives. Once inside they head to the kitchen, walking past Meyer who is performing the paperwork of this process.


"It's a godsend," Meyer said of the help the Meals on Wheels program is getting from Friendly Rider. She added that they've had less physical work to do because Hilltop Kitchen is now cooking and packaging all foods and Friendly Rider does the driving. It adds just a bit more paperwork.

There are 45 meals sent out from Humphrey Manor and 28 are delivered within the apartment complex. The large dining hall was empty at noon as residents have the meals delivered to their rooms and are not able to gather for meals, for games or sewing projects in large groups as they once could.

"They miss that," Meyer said. "Now they've got to look at four walls."

Just as Friendly Rider would like to deliver more meals, Meyer said the kitchen would like to increase its reach as well. While they get about 100 meals a day, they could do as many as 200, Meyer said.

To get on the delivery schedule for these low-cost meals in Wadena County, contact Meyer at 218-631-4053.

Candy Snyder tracks her route while waiting for Jody Eller to return from a meal delivery. Michael Johnson/Wadena Pioneer Journal

Related Topics: WADENA COUNTY
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