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Volunteer Kristen Dionne created a Meal Train for Men’s Winter Refuge

Volunteer organizes Meal Train

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Kristen Dionne, Minot, organized a Meal Train for the Men’s Winter Refuge of Minot. Dionne said she enjoys volunteering and giving back to the community.

It started in mid-January and has been on track ever since, much to the delight of those staying at the Men’s Winter Refuge of Minot and for Mike Zimmer, executive director.

“Oh, my gosh! These guys are in heaven!” exclaimed Zimmer when asked about the impact of the Meal Train.

The Meal Train was organized by Kristen Dionne of Minot. The Meal Train consists of a network of volunteers who prepare evening meals for residents of the Men’s Winter Refuge. Dionne said the idea came about after she contacted Zimmer and asked what she could do to help the refuge.

Zimmer’s answer was that evening meals for the guys was always a challenge. He often cooked “stew or soup or something” for the men staying at the refuge.

“The guys never outwardly complained,” laughed Zimmer. “Always my number one thing on my ‘to do’ list everyday is what are we going to do for a meal?”

Dionne came up with the solution of starting a Meal Train and, using social media, sought the help of other volunteers in the community. The reaction was immediate.

“With the first day two to three weeks were filled up,” said Zimmer. “It’s just a God-send for our shelter. Kristen was the perfect person for this.”

“When Mike told me in mid-January that there were only two meals signed up for the rest of the month, I was floored,” said Dionne. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d get other members of the community to pitch in. I thought if I didn’t know much about what the refuge needs then a lot of other people probably didn’t either.”

Meal Train is a national movement designed to help in many situations where meal preparation is needed. Dionne linked-in to the national website to set up a Meal Train for the Men’s Winter Refuge and used her Facebook account to reach out to others.

“I pretty much check every day. I go to the link and see all the days people have signed up to provide a meal,” said Dionne. “It’s really a community effort. God gives us so much and we just want to give it back. It lifts me up to be able to help these men, to volunteer.”

Zimmer says Dionne keeps him up to date on the meal providers that have filled a need at the shelter. And, he says, the timing couldn’t have been better.

“This winter has been our busiest in the past five years,” said Zimmer. “We’ve been running between 10 and 15 men a night. The guys are so appreciative of the Meal Train.”

That’s exactly what Dionne had hoped to achieve when she volunteered and got the Meal Train up and running.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Dionne who has personally cooked for the Meal Train. “Those who sign up for the Meal Train create a great impact and help guys get back on their feet.”

“We’ve had everything from lasagna, enchiladas, pulled pork, roast beef and mashed potatoes,” said Zimmer. “People are very generous, not only for the meals but all the sides as well.”

Another benefit of the Meal Train, said Zimmer, is that there’s usually enough left over food from the evening meal that the guys can pack a lunch the following day.

One Minot business has already signed up to provide a full Easter dinner for the shelter. Another group is working on a grilled steak dinner. Still others have donated gifts cards or money to purchase meals.

The Men’s Winter Refuge is open from Nov. 1 to April 30 each year.

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