Four days a week, Dan Anderson criss-crosses Superior's North End neighborhood. He brings trays of food, carries away empty dishes and provides a wellness check for 29 people through Douglas County's Meals on Wheels program, run by Senior Connections.
"I really enjoy doing this," said Anderson, who's been driving the route for two years in a white van he calls Beverly.
"The way I look at it, two minutes out of my day to make somebody's day is worth it to me," he said. "I might be the only person they see all day."
Anderson made the rounds Friday, March 29, with a cheerful smile, a secret knock and an up-to-date weather report for each person.
"They hear that knock and they know it's me," Anderson said. "I'm like the postman - if you're not there at that time, they'll call the office, 'Where is he?'"
Some of the seniors were waiting at the door for him. Others responded quickly to his knock, buzz or, in one case, his yelp of greeting.
"I can tell after 10 to start listening for him," said Janice Berg, who lives in a senior apartment building on Weeks Avenue.
Having drivers dedicated to specific routes helps them get to know their seniors, said Mary Hall, who drives the town of Superior route and runs the Meals on Wheels program.
"We as a group can make sure they're OK," she said.
Anderson didn't know any of the seniors before taking the Meals on Wheels job. Friday, he chatted with them about their families, pets and health. Louis "Bill" Meador was back after a four-day stay at the hospital.
"I worry about you, my friend," Anderson told him.
Meador said he appreciates the great food and the different drivers he's had. For him, friendship is the best component of the program. And Anderson is the man.
"He makes me feel warm on the coldest days. That's how his friendship is," Meador said. "And he's always got a smile on his face."
In addition to the meals, Anderson packs a few extras in his van -a crossword puzzle for one senior, a weekly half-gallon of 2 percent milk for another, dog treats for the pooches on the route and a can of cat treats in case a feline escapes during a delivery.
When he retired after 30 years working for the bus depot in Duluth, Anderson tried doing nothing. That lasted eight months. A Senior Connections van caught the Superior man's eye and he applied for a part-time job. It started as one day a week, and now it's four.
"For two hours of my day, big deal," Anderson said. "What else would I be doing right now? Watching 'Price is Right?'"
He draws the line on working Monday's though, and opts for three-day weekends.
"Mondays," Anderson said. "What a way to spend one-seventh of your life."
The Meals on Wheels program is flexible. It allows seniors to order only the meals they want and provides drop-off options.
"If I have something going on, I just tell him then he knows and he puts it in the fridge," Berg said.
It's a wonderful program, said Kristie McCuskey of Poplar, whose mother, Joyce Thomsen, utilizes the program. It's helped Thomsen stay independent and in her home.
"This is really her main meal," McCuskey said. "She really has benefitted from it so much. I would recommend it to anybody that needs help with cooking or staying independent."
Ramona Wnek used to cook for 100 kids a day at Family Forum Head Start. On March 29, she got a meal from Anderson.
"The program is very good and I appreciate it, that I can get some help right now," Wnek said. "I would love to be able to be cooking for other people."
Ruby Lein freely admitted she's no cook. She enjoys the senior meals and the chance to chat. She had sad news to deliver Friday about her cat, which had died.
"I'm thinking of getting a cat myself," Anderson said.
Lein liked that idea.
"I think we need something beside ourselves," she said.
After another minute of conversation, Anderson left the house.
"Have a good day and a nice forever," Lein called after him.
In 2018, Senior Connections provided more than 37,000 Meals on Wheels meals to Douglas County residents and served more than 17,000 meals at congregate dining sites. Meals are available Monday through Friday to residents 60 or older who are homebound. Frozen meals may be available for weekends, holidays and weather-related emergencies. To sign up for meals or apply to be a substitute driver, contact Lisa Warring at 715-394-3611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.