Lakota, N.D., shop's meals are a gift for community members
LAKOTA, N.D. – Elaine Books is bringing it home for the Lakota community during the coronavirus pandemic.
The owner of Elaine’s House of Dreams flower and gift shop for the past two months has made and delivered thousands of meals to dwellers of the town of about 650, about an hour's drive west of Grand Forks. Meanwhile, Brooks also serves meals, packaged in to-go boxes, through a drive-up window in her Lakota store.
Brooks has long served coffee and baked homemade rolls, bread pudding and other pastries in her flower and gift shop, and offered sandwiches and soups at lunchtime. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, she wanted to do more for customers, especially senior citizens, who were being advised not to leave their homes.
Brooks decided that each Tuesday and Thursday, she and Leslie Kreinbring, who helps her cook and bake, would make full-course, hot meals and have them available for pickup or delivery. Brooks used social media and made phone calls to get the word out; when friends heard that she was delivering, they volunteered to help.
Jeanne Aaker and Pam Davidson are among those volunteers.
On Thursday, May 7, the two women delivered 44 meals made up of scalloped corn, meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, a bun and bread pudding. Brooks and Kreinbring also packaged 30 meals for drive-through customers who include retired farmers, city employees and railroad workers.
“The quantities are enough so they can have enough for supper," Davidson said. “Elaine is very generous.”
Brooks puts in a lot of 12-hour-plus days making the baked goods and food in the morning, and then tending to tasks in the flower and gift shop in the afternoon. She is glad to do it.
“When we have people who have gained weight and are stronger, it's so worth it,” she said.
Brooks, Aaker and Davidson and Kreinbring have been on the receiving end of several thank-you letters from grateful community members.
“Thank you for the wonderful meals. May God bless you in many ways. Happy Mothers Day,” Brooks read Thursday from a handmade note.
The volunteers also receive profuse verbal thank-yous when they deliver the meals.
“It’s very heartwarming,” Aaker said.
Often the letters, both hand-delivered and mailed, contain a cash donation and a request that Brooks use the money for meals for low-income customers. Children who live elsewhere also are calling Brooks with requests to deliver meals to their parents
“The phone has been ringing off of the hook,” Kreinbring said.
Gerry Wagness, 87, appreciates that Brooks calls her every Monday to tell her what is on the menu for the Tuesday and Thursday meals.
"Any time she offers a meal, it’s so good you don’t want to turn it down,” Wagness said. “They are just wonderful, and I love them. In every town, the people are trying to pull together, and she certainly is one of them who has helped. She’s doing such a good job of making us feel like we’re being taken care of during these crazy times.”
Brooks is grateful for the support of community members, who are buying her meals and donating funds to buy others meals. When the pandemic hit, she worried that her business was in jeopardy, she said. The income from the meals has helped her business say afloat
“It’s been a godsend,” Brooks said.
Making the meals, delivering them and handing them to drive-through customers also has given her an emotional boost.
“Talking to people and seeing their smiles, it’s just heartwarming,” Brooks said.