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Landon Lantz, a Lake Crystal Ace Hardware employee, puts a bag of salt in his trunk for a customer before heading to the grocery store for a delivery Saturday.

MANKATO — Following Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order that went into effect Saturday, some area businesses and organizations are offering delivery services to residents who are unable or wary of venturing out themselves.

“I was just sitting in a meeting with city officials,” said Brady Hahn, chief for the 29-member Cleveland Fire Department. “It just popped into my head. I said, “if anyone needs support, we can do this.”

With the help of fellow volunteer firefighter, Sam Gore, they reached out to area churches to help spread the word that firefighters were offering to help shop for groceries and other supplies for seniors and people with underlying health conditions in the Cleveland area who couldn’t shop on their own.

“We have reached over 8,500 people just on Facebook alone,” Hahn said. “I also had calls from Madison Lake and Kasota Fire inquiring about this and wanting to reach out to their area in the same manner.”

Hahn works as a school teacher and said the transition from having a classroom full of kids to teaching remotely means he has some extra time on his hands to help out. The Cleveland Fire Department Facebook page provides information on how to place those orders.

Hahn said they haven’t had any requests yet, other than people offering to help, but expects that to change now that the stay-at-home order is in place. He and his fellow firefighters want people to know that they are there to help.

“Not everybody has a large social network of people they’re able to call, or maybe their kids or family live far away,” said Hahn. “The door is wide open for anyone who feels they need it.”

As of March 25, Waseca County opened a phone line (507-835-0690) for residents to place orders for essential items like medicine and food if they are under quarantine or self-isolation from COVID-19 related symptoms. The line is open to residents from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.

Waseca County Public Health Director Sarah Berry said the county is pooling resources with other local organizations, like LeadMN's Waseca office, which connects college students with community volunteer work.

“They were wanting to get a volunteer base and some partnership happening,” Berry said. “We realized they might identify people who they aren’t able to assist. It seemed like a good idea to get this up and running at the same time they did to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks.”

Berry said they wanted to get a head start in anticipation of a growing number of local, state and national coronavirus cases. As of Sunday, Waseca County had three confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“We’ve only had a handful of calls so far and we haven’t had to respond to any requests yet, but we did want to start this process to make sure it’s streamlined before we have a large volume of requests,” she said.

In Lake Crystal, four local businesses teamed up to boost sales as fewer people are venturing out to shop. On Saturday employees at Lake Crystal Ace Hardware began delivery services not just for their own customers but also offered to pick up groceries or food from Kevin’s Market, the Lakes Sports Bar and Grill and the local Dairy Queen.

Lake Crystal Ace Hardware manager Dan Buss said even though the store remains open, they plan to offer multi-stop deliveries every Saturday for the foreseeable future. On Saturday, they made between 25 to 30 deliveries.

“We were afraid we were going to be shut down,” Buss said. “But we still needed to generate sales, so we were just going to plan on doing curbside or delivery. If we can help out the other businesses by picking up their stuff too, it would be a win-win for everybody.”

Employee Landon Lantz began delivering at 8 a.m. Saturday and was busy making deliveries all morning.

“It’s a nice, easy way to help out not only local people, but the community and customers too,” Lantz said.

As the warnings grow more dire and people experience increasing social isolation, Hahn wants people in the community to know they have their back.

“Obviously in every community there are a lot of people that feel shut in in this situation, he said. “There’s a lot of fear. They just need to know that there’s somebody out there.”

Dan Greenwood is a Free Press staff writer. Contact him at dgreenwood@mankatofreepress.com

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