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Finding Minnesota: Social Network In A Small Town

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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DOVRAY, Minn. (WCCO) – Going strictly by the numbers, Dovray, Minnesota would not seem significant. Its population in the last census: 57.

But measured by a different standard – of community service — Dovray appears exceptional.

Each weekday before noon, a high percentage of the population will stop what they’re doing and come together in one place.

A hearty meal is waiting for them in the community cafe, where neighbors volunteer to cook it.

Junior and Joyce Severson take the second Thursday and fourth Tuesday of each month, serving roast beef, mashed potatoes, corn, squash and a choice of dessert: apple crisp or “better than Robert Redford” cake.

“If you like squash,” said Junior Severson, “you won’t get any better than that.”

It’s a warm lunch for whoever shows up, with many of the foods from nearby fields. It’s been a tradition in town for 30 years.

“I can’t believe it’s gone on this long,” said Mardella Olson of Dovray.

“People sit and chat about their miseries and their happiness,” said Marion Johnson, “and things like that.”

“Spring and fall when the farmers are in the field is when we get the most people,” Severson said.

It’s a social network where “friends” still meet face to face and status updates can go on as long as they need to.

“I’m sure none of these people own computers necessarily,” said Pam Busswitz, a board member with the Dovray Boosters.

Dovray, though, is not immune from change.

The younger generation hasn’t quite found the time to join in.

“The older people are dying,” said Jim Shaw, “and the younger ones don’t want to take over so much.”

“We always said in a good year, no deaths and a lot of babies,” said booster club president Sheila Leonard. “Well, we haven’t had a baby for about five years around here.”

It is a challenge to find enough cooks to volunteer in such a small community. But for now, the power of tradition and concern for neighbors will be enough to keep the cafe open.

Visitors to the cafe pay whatever they can afford, but $6 is suggested to help re-stock the shelves.

Coffee and rolls are also available each weekday morning for those who arrive around 8 a.m.

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