Groceries-To-Go, a service that helps people live independently by delivering groceries to their homes, has faced a myriad of challenges from volunteer shortages to funding cuts which nearly ended the program. That is until Johanna and Joe Diethelm stepped in. 

The husband and wife volunteered to save the program from collapse just three months ago and are hoping to serve more. 

The Groceries-To-Go program was first launched by Lakes and Pines Community Action Council in February 2017. It was highly utilized by senior citizens who may be able to live on their own, but getting their own groceries was difficult. 

The Groceries To Go program, like many of Lakes and Pines’ other programs, is intended to help people retain their ability to live in their homes and delay the need to move into assisted living or other types of senior care housing.

Orchestrated by Valerie Brown at Lakes and Pines, clients could place orders through Coborn’s online ordering and pick up service. Since many of the clients are not comfortable with or don’t own a computer, Brown would take the orders over the phone and enters them online herself. 

Then, volunteers were scheduled to pick up and deliver the orders about once a week. The service was most utilized by residents living in Mora and Pine City.

In January 2019, the program struggled to find enough volunteers to make deliveries. The need for volunteers was publicized in a news article through the Pine City Pioneer and Kanabec County Times. Within two months, the number of volunteers went from one to over 17. 

All seemed well until  Lakes and Pines’ funding for the delivery program was cut in June. 

The Groceries-to-Go funding was part of Lakes and Pines’ Live Well at Home chore and delivery program which was funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Lakes and Pines’ grant request to continue the program wad denied; they have the option to reapply for the next grant round in July 2020.

Clients received notice that Lakes and Pines was ending the service, including volunteer background studies, volunteer management and data access. 

Yet Brown said she didn’t want to see the service end. To prevent the service from collapsing, Brown reached out to various community organizations, looking for someone willing to take on the program. 

After hitting dead end after dead end, Brown made a plea on social media. 

That’s when Johanna and Joe got involved. 

“We kind of waited until the last minute thinking maybe someone else would do it, but no one else did. So I said, alright, we’ll give it a try because we don’t want to see it end,” said Johanna. 

The couple understood how important such a service was. Both Johanna and Joe have elderly parents that sometimes need help with their shopping. 

The couple lives in the Mora area. Johanna works as a housing access coordinator for Mentoring Professionals and Joe works for East Central Energy. Johanna said at first they were worried of managing the service was something they could handle. 

After three months of working with the service, Johanna said she feels confident they can manage it. 

Diethelms are currently only serving clients in Kanabec County. There are currently 15 clients receiving services in Mora and Ogilvie. 

 Brown said clients have been made aware Lakes and Pines no longer provides program oversight or background checks for volunteers. There are no such checks or oversight with Johanna and Joe as managers. Clients needed to give Lakes and Pines permission to transfer services over to the Diethelms. 

For more information about the service, including to receive delivery or to volunteer, contact Johanna at johanna@live.com or call 320-282-3807.

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