Breakfast at Mikey’s in Long Prairie

We got more than a dozen folks around the breakfast table at Mikey’s on Long Prairie’s Central Avenue Thursday morning to talk about Todd County, and it didn’t take long for the stories to come tumbling out.

Harry Grammond said folks in Gray Eagle want someone to make use of a good, former grade school, closed because of declining enrollment.

Bob Krause said he’d drive a senior in need to North Dakota if he or she needed to get there, partly because he hopes a transportation program will still be around when he needs it.

Jim Gohman’s son moved away from Gray Eagle but came back when he found a printing job, a job that has since disappeared.

Julie Baum has watched her kids move away from the rural county as they grew up. “I’m afraid we’re going to run out of people,” she said. She and her husband will stay because her parents are there.

Gladys Judes was a farmer who joined the Peace Corps as a dairy advisor in Central America. Now, as she fights to pass a school bond in Eagle Bend and Clarissa, the problems her community faces sometimes make her think she’s back in the Peace Corps, she said.

Dan Rasmussen loves to tell the tale of the dirty looks he got for welcoming a Hispanic bowling team to the bowling alley he runs. Now, three years later, everybody wants the team members to bowl with them, he says.

Todd County is a place in some turmoil — the economy is tough, farms and jobs have disappeared, the employment of many Hispanics in the past decade have caused tensions and given a glimpse of solutions. Increasingly, senior citizens are showing signs of desperation.

There were three of us from MPR News at the breakfast table yesterday — Jennifer Vogel, Curtis Gilbert and me — and we were beginning Ground Level’s next reporting project. We want to hear what makes Todd County tick, so if you have a story, an anecdote, a name of somebody we should talk to, please let us know by posting a comment here or emailing me. We’ll be back soon.

  • Nancy

    The breakfast at Mikey’s was enlightening and entertaining with residents of the area sharing their insights in an honest open way as we seldom have the chance to do. One commented how she felt the local packing company’s job atmosphere was the pits while our mayor cast it in the light as the American dream for jobless immigrants who’ve come from much worse. One person’s soup is another’s gravy.

    On a related note: I learned in just the last few days of additional job losses in the area: four from one office in a medical facility, a respiratory therapy position cut, Is it fear or actual loss of revenue behind this? As far as I know, people are still getting sick, paying their insurance premiums or relying on assistance to pay their medical bills. I’ve also heard of a delay of months between hospitalizations and billing. What’s really happening in rural health care as new clinics are built and other jobs cut?

  • verna toenyan

    OVERWHELMED-That is the only word to describe the response to the Grant Award by the Initiative Foundation. I feel Todd County citizens feel determined to work together to find solutions to our challenges. I am so excited by the response of the attendees at the kick-off meeting. We all need to continue to work together to utilize our resources!

    The most heartwarming comments I have recieved are that Seniors are so concerned for younger families and in turn the “kids” are concerned for the Seniors.

    Thank each and everyone one of you for your help in receiving this grant, now we can pull together to meet the challenges of the future!!!