Community spirit brings big benefits to tiny town

Main Street Kansas

MINNEOLA, Kan. (KSNW) – Getting to a doctor or even buying groceries can be tough in rural Kansas, especially if you’re elderly.

But one tiny town of 800 has made it handy, with almost everything you need in one spot.

Just past Minneola’s friendly sign, you won’t see a mall or even a traffic light, but something more important.

“It’s a grocery store, but it’s much more than that,” said Trish Jaeger, mother of three. “It’s like a lifeline for our community.”

Hometown Market and the drug store next door provide what some small towns can’t – convenience.

Whether you’re a busy mom with young children or a senior citizen, the townspeople quickly realized how important a grocery store is, when the only one in town closed several years ago.

“We’re 20-plus miles from a city that has a grocery store, if there’s not one in town, so it’s a huge impact,” said Wesley Orr.

So big, the people of Minneola invested their own money and formed a cooperative to re-open the store, and every week, they pitch in, when shipments of food arrive.

“They come in and help the employees unload the truck and stock the shelves,” said Orr, who is now the chairman of the co-op board.

The store and pharmacy sit right across the street from city hall and the post office and just one block away from another basic need, healthcare.

Minneola has a clinic, hospital, and nursing home– all under one roof.

“My husband is in the nursing home with dementia so I’m a block away from him,” said Lorene Thompson, who’s lived in Minneola since 1936. “I’ve got a wonderful world!”

Thompson still drives, but often gets around town on a motorized scooter.

“Bye!” she calls out as she heads down the sidewalk from the grocery store to the nursing home.

It’s a short ride for her to visit her husband, plus one-stop shopping for patients.

“It’s like doctoring with family,” said Judy Smith of Meade.

Over the years, Smith has been an employee of the hospital, a patient, and then the wife of a man saved by doctors after a paralyzing fall.

She is grateful to have every level of care available close to home.

“To find a hospital this size with the number of providers that we have in a community of 800 people, I’d say is rare when compared across the nation,” said Debbie Bruner, CEO of Minneola District Hospital.

It’s the townspeople, she says, who make doctors want to call Minneola home.

Now, Minneola is adding more housing.

The mayor, Carol Sibley, says two state grants have allowed them to build two new duplexes and two houses, giving more people a chance to enjoy what Minneola has to offer!

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