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Excitement builds for ice out on Lake Minnetonka

TONKA BAY — Families across the Lake Minnetonka area are stuck at home as schools across the state of Minnesota have closed and businesses and organizations order employees to work from home due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

In the lake area, excitement builds for ice out as the weather warms up and the ice thaws leaving a lake of patchwork water and ice.

Every year, Al & Alma’s Supper Club & Charter Cruises in Mound starts the month of March with its ice out contest — submissions end on St. Patrick’s Day.

This year, the earliest guess is March 26 and the latest is May 6, owner Jay Soule told Lakeshore Weekly News. The winner of the contest receives a $200 gift card, which can be used for both the supper club and the cruises.

Soule said it’s a great way for the organization to start off every spring.

Marinas across the lake are also preparing for spring. The Caribbean Marina at 135 Lakeview Ave. in Tonka Bay is preparing for ice out by installing a portion of new docks and de-icing around the older docks to protect them from shifting ice, Kelly Wischmeier from the marina told the paper.

“We miss our slip customers as well as the visitors of the gas dock and the restaurant. We are also looking forward to getting our employees back to work,” Wischmeier said.

Wischmeier said as of yet, the marina has not received any direction from the state of Minnesota or Hennepin County about restrictions due to COVID-19.

“We are operating as if a normal boating season will happen despite the current issues,” Wischmeier said.

Businesses aren’t the only ones getting excited about ice out, folks around the lake are getting antsy to get out on the water.

Johnny Range shared a photo of his son James Range holding a paddle on a piece of ice on The Lake Minnetonka Fan Club Facebook page on March 17 with the caption, “First lake Minnetonka paddle boarder 2020.”

“My brother did it when he was around my age and I thought it was fun,” James Range, 9, told Lakeshore Weekly News. He said, despite not wearing shoes in the photo, his feet weren’t cold on the ice.

Johnny Range explained that when his older son, Johnny Range Jr. was around James’ age, he posed for a very similar photo on a piece of ice in the spring but with a chair and a fishing pole. They saw a similar opportunity this spring. (Johnny Range noted when both photos of his sons were taken, they were in very shallow water and parents were nearby.)

The Range family of Mound is ready to get out on the water, Johnny Range said. They are looking forward to fishing, swimming, paddle boarding and more when the ice fully melts.

The Uelemen family of Tonka Bay is also looking to get out on the water. They took their paddle boat out on the partially frozen lake on Friday, March 20.

“We will start boating to Excelsior and Wayzata for food and ice cream until the water is warm enough and then we will spend the summer wakesurfing, wakeboarding, skiing and tubing with friends and family. We can’t wait,” she told the paper.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the median ice-out date on Lake Minnetonka is April 13. Last year, Ice out was declared on April 20.

As of March 24, ice out has been declared on five Minnesota lakes, the DNR’s website shows, all in the southern third of the state. The earliest ice-out date is North Silver Lake in Martin County, which was declared ice free on March 19.


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ICA, Interfaith Outreach expect need to increase amid COVID-19 pandemic

MINNETONKA — Food shelves and emergency service providers in the Lake Minnetonka area have seen an increase in people reaching out for help as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak causes people to lose work and has children home from school.

The ICA Food Shelf in Minnetonka and Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners in Plymouth have closed their buildings to the public but continue to offer needed services such as food and financial assistance for rent and utilities. They’re just providing these services in a different way. Instead of clients coming into the food shelf, the organizations are using a drive-up model so clients can drive up and a staff member will load pre-packed bags of groceries in their vehicle. Meanwhile, other services, like financial assistance, are being handled over the phone, the organizations have said.

Monika Salden, ICA communications manager, told Lakeshore Weekly News on March 19 they have seen a “substantial increase” in the amount of people seeking help and have heard from a lot of people who have never used their services before.

“On a normal day, we have two people covering the front desk phones. This week, we have needed three or four to handle the call volume,” Salden said last week.

The food shelf has seen a “large increase” in the number of people stopping by for emergency bags (bags filled with non-perishable foods), Salden said. And ICA’s case managers have been “very busy” connecting people to other resources and services they need right now.

“We are here to help. We are open and we are planning to stay open,” Salden said. “We will continue to adapt as the situation demands. But if you need help, please call us and come get food. We are here for you and we will continue to be here for you.”

The increasing need for food and financial help is expected to grow in the coming days and weeks.

“We absolutely expect a spike in requests for all kinds of help that fall into that essential service category,” LaDonna Hoy, the executive director of Interfaith Outreach, told the paper on March 19. “As people are losing more time from work ... this is something we know is going to happen.”

Hoy added that all the west-suburban organizations and food shelves are anticipating an increase in need and they’re all learning as the situation evolved.

“It’s a very challenging time for all of us,” Hoy said.

Interfaith Outreach is focusing on providing the essential services — food, emergency financial assistance and welcoming new clients — during the COVID-19 pandemic. It may change how it offers services based on direction from state officials.

“We’re just trying, again, to maintain our food shelf and our essential services as a dependable community resource,” Hoy said.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

The most helpful thing someone can do for area food shelves is giving financially, ICA and Interfaith said.

“Right now, given the need to keep physical distance, what is most helpful are funds,” Hoy said. “Donations of cash enable us to buy more product, more food product, which minimizes the number of touches when people decide to donate food.”

For every $1 donated, ICA can buy up to $10 worth of food, “and the fewer hands that touch food right now, the better,” Salden said.

Hoy is thankful for members of the community who have already donated and said clients have expressed their gratitude toward the entire community that is known for stepping up and helping when it matters.

Donations can be made on the organizations’ websites. ICA Food Shelf serves the communities of Hopkins, Minnetonka, Excelsior, Shorewood, Deephaven, Greenwood and Woodland. Its website is www.icafoodshelf.org. Interfaith Outreach serves the communities of Hamel, Long Lake, Medicine Lake, Medina, Minnetonka Beach, Orono, Plymouth and Wayzata. Its website is www.iocp.org.