Greater Mankato Area United Way is addressing social isolation and ensuring older adults in care facilities can stay connected to loved ones through technology.


This week, volunteers will help United Way deliver 130 Kindle Fire tablets to 22 facilities in United Way’s service area of Blue Earth, Le Sueur, Nicollet and Waseca counties.


“Social connection is instrumental to an individual’s emotional and mental health,” said Greater Mankato Area United Way CEO Barb Kaus. “Connection to others can help ease loneliness, stress and depression. By providing technology to older adults, we can offer them a means of communication and connection to family and other loved ones who are unable to visit during these times of crisis.”


The initiative began when Nate Erickson, administrator at Mankato’s Ophthalmology Associates, approached Kaus with the idea of providing devices to older adults who are socially isolated during COVID-19 restrictions. United Way took on the role of convening and connecting.


“The goal for this was simple: I wanted to connect our greatest generation with their loved ones and friends during a very difficult time,” said Erickson. “Loneliness and isolation, especially for seniors, is a debilitating thing. I had to step up. Since coming to Mankato over two years ago, I know how generous this community is in times of need, and all we had to do was ask. The outpouring of support was incredible. Ophthalmology Associates serves seniors across Southwest MN and our senior populations are very near and dear to our staff. Using our current relationship with the United Way only bolstered our overall goal for our senior community and patients we serve. My little plan exploded, and I am entirely grateful to Barb Kaus, the United Way, and all who supported my small idea to support our senior patient population and all seniors within the senior living communities across southwest Minnesota.”

Approximately 85 percent of Ophthalmology Associates’ clients are senior age.


Donors included service clubs, individuals and businesses throughout the region. District #77 also loaned additional tablets.


Along with Erickson, doctors from Ophthalmology Associates and volunteers will assist in distributing the tablets to care facilities.


The initiative is one example of Greater Mankato Area United Way’s mission of convening people and organizations to resources.


Donors to this initiative include:



Diane Beckmann, Thrivent Financial – Waseca

Connors Plumbing & Heating

Pam DeMarce, Wow!Zone Family Entertainment Center

Exchange Club of Waseca

Greater Mankato Rotary Club

Kiwanis Club of Mankato

Mankato Sunrise Lions Club

Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging

Minnesota Valley Civitan Club

Ophthalmology Associates

Optimist Club of Minnesota Valley

Sertoma of Greater Mankato

Jaye Sopkowiak

St. Peter Lions Club

St. Peter Rotary

Target Mankato

Waseca Lions Club

Waseca Rotary Club