Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota is rescuing a senior program from potential closure in North Dakota.

The Minnesota nonprofit this week adopted the Senior Companion Program run by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, after officials with the latter organization announced it would close in the wake of financial issues with its housing program. The senior program works with nearly 400 older adults a year and 70 volunteers.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has become an even more vital lifeline for seniors, matching volunteers who are 55 and older with other older adults who need help with errands, groceries or transportation.

"North Dakota is a very rural state. Senior Companions can be a critical service for older adults trying to live independently," said Roxanne Jenkins, associate vice president of services for older adults at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. "It's so essential."

The Minnesota nonprofit already operates other programs and services in North Dakota and other states and oversees its own Senior Companion Program in Minnesota, which serves nearly 900 older adults, so it was a "natural fit," Jenkins said.

"We're excited to be able to assume and continue these services in North Dakota," she added.

The program is funded by the AmeriCorps Seniors. Four employees from the North Dakota organization were hired to help run the senior program by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, one of the largest social services nonprofits in the state with a $166 million annual budget and 2,400 employees.

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141