Carry-out delivered weekly to seniors and families in need is not only helping participating restaurants but filling a gap for a White Bear Lake nonprofit transporting the food. 

When the pandemic hit, Newtrax found itself facing the same challenges many organizations faced: a greatly reduced demand for service, noted Executive Director Mike Greenbaum. 

Started in 2011 to provide a more efficient transportation system for its founding organizations, Merrick and PAI — which serves adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities — Newtrax grew to serve senior communities, businesses, other nonprofits and local schools to expand services that benefit the community. 

One of those innovative services is a hugely successful meal delivery program launched just six weeks ago. 

Credit for the new program goes to Newtrax Transportation Coordinator Scott Olson. He got the idea after working with Loaves and Fishes to deliver 800,000 meals to families impacted by the pandemic through 28 YMCAs.

"We thought, ‘How do we do something here with prepared meals to stimulate growth with restaurants and provide meals for seniors in need?’" Olson said. "Local restaurants get an extra boost and 

we create consistent shifts for Newtrax drivers.”

The program is gaining momentum, Olson stated. The program transported more than 1,250 meals in just over a month and, thanks to financial support from the city of White Bear Lake, it has expanded to serve an additional 455 meals to families in the district who are facing financial hardships. 

Ten area restaurants are participating in the program, so far. The businesses are guaranteed a profitable price per meal, which recently was increased thanks in part to a $20,000 financial infusion from the city, care of the federal coronavirus relief act. 

The program has also attracted financial support from the Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation, Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation, the cities of Mahtomedi and Vadnais Heights and the White Bear Lake Area Education Foundation. The biggest surprise? Residents who receive meals are donating what they can to the program to broaden its reach.

Pioneer Manor Housing Manager Sherry Spurlock said an unexpected response is that residents who aren’t in need donate for someone who is, and surprise them with a meal. “It’s a pay-it-forward kind of thing,” she noted.  

Another positive is that seniors “who have been deep in isolation are leaving their apartment to get a meal. So there’s a bit of socialization, too,” added Olson.  

VFW manager Sheila Parato calls the program “a win-win.” 

“We’re providing residents with nutritious comfort food that brings a taste from home and restaurants are getting a revenue boost. Times are challenging for the VFW. We didn’t get our usual summer revenue to fall back on. This will help,” she said.

Greenbaum pointed out that Newtrax was founded on collaboration and, once again, this innovative program demonstrates that mindset. “The generosity of our fantastic community has again been highlighted through this program,” he said. “From the individual donations, the flexibility of our staff, efforts of area restaurants, the financial support of local governments and the outreach of the school districts, we continue to be reminded daily of the opportunities that present themselves when we work together in collaboration.”

Anyone wishing to contribute to the program can reach out to Newtrax at 651-846-9301.  

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