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Boreal Community Media

COUNTY CONNECTIONS: Cook County Community Center and Extension During the Pandemic

Jul 24, 2020 09:15AM ● By Editor
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By Cook County Community Center/Extension Director Diane Booth.  From Cook County MN - July 24, 2020

The Cook County (CC) Community Center and Cook County Extension have always taken pride in having an open-door policy where people could stroll into our office, ask for and receive immediate service. This began when we opened our doors in 1993 and continued until the COVID-19 pandemic hit this spring.

In order to  minimize risk during the pandemic, we are accessible by appointment, email or telephone, with site visits provided by CC Extension as requested. 

Our social room is reserved for the Cook County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). It houses three people: Emergency Operations Manager Mike Keyport , Deputy Emergency Operations Manager Jim Wiinanen and AmeriCorps Volunteer Elsa Lunde .  The social room is not available to other groups unless agreed upon by all parties.  The space may be shared as a polling place during the August 11 primary and the November 3 election. 

The 4H log cabin building has become the dedicated drop-off site for donations of materials for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, including face coverings with elastic or ties, direct vent safety goggles, N95 masks, and Tyvek suits and gowns coated with polypropylene.   From 8am to 4pm on Tuesday,  this building is also the drop-off and pick-up site for taxes being done under the Cook County VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program.  Taxes are done off-site by volunteers, and our staff takes care of making sure tax returns are secure when being picked up or dropped off.  Between 500 and 1,000 families utilize this service every year.


Several groups continue to work out of the Community Center commercial kitchen.  Rebel Girls Community Minded Catering does curbside delivery of lunches on Mondays and Thursdays and has recently added a food truck downtown where they provide meals Thursdays through Sundays.  Jessica and Tyler Dean from White Pine North, one of the downtown businesses destroyed by fire earlier this year, are also using the kitchen part-time to fill Boundary Waters coffee orders.

Our new warming house is being used exclusively this summer for YMCA childcare services for youth ages five to 12. This helps ensure the safety of childcare providers and children by limiting their exposure to other people.  This group does share outdoor restrooms with community garden, skateboard and playground users.

Thanks to several grants, we are able to upgrade the community garden space and the playground area for children ages birth to five.  Garden improvements include an outdoor handwashing station and new raised beds.  The playground will see installation of music components, a sandbox, a living willow tunnel, an ABC garden, outdoor chalkboards, a play gas station and a water wall feature.

Extension is conducting Zoom classes and meeting one-on-one with clients interested in home gardens.  Our Snacks & Packs backpack food program is providing food boxes to 63 children from Tofte to Grand Portage.

Our communications may have shifted to social distancing with face coverings, Zoom meetings, and increased emails and telephone calls, but, as this summary shows, the services we provide continue to be available to the public.

Additional information about the CC Community Center and CC Extension is available on the county website at

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service