Residents of north-central Minnesota take a push and find hope on Freedom Express


Three years ago, the Menahga, Minnesota started their own business, a transportation service called Freedom Express.

“I wanted to work for myself and I heard from a nurse friend of mine what other transport companies charge people going to Fargo round trip from Park Rapids,” he said. “And I thought, wow, I could charge a lot less than that and still make some money.

“I wanted to give people a cheaper option and I really like helping people. It’s more rewarding than the money. The name of my company comes from my patriotic side.

While residents of metropolitan areas have buses, trams, and taxis to get to their appointments, the choices are much more limited in smaller towns. There is no taxi service here, and the Heartland Express bus only provides service on designated routes and times and only serves residents of the Park Rapids area within a 2 mile radius of the city ​​limits. Living at Home of the Park Rapids Area offers rides with volunteer drivers, but only for people 65 and over.

That’s why Dozier’s van, decorated with an American flag and a soaring eagle, is a symbol of hope for its driver and passengers. Freedom Express offers a 24-hour on-call service. This means that if someone ends up in the emergency room by ambulance, they have a way home. The van is also wheelchair accessible.

Conquer your own challenges

Returning from Iraq, Mike Dozier was greeted at his home by his friends and family, including his niece Samara, who was all smiles.  He has a heart for veterans, going the extra mile to make sure they get to their appointments at VA hospitals.  (Photo submitted)

Returning from Iraq, Mike Dozier was greeted at his home by his friends and family, including his niece Samara, who was all smiles. He has a heart for veterans, going the extra mile to make sure they get to their appointments at VA hospitals. (Photo submitted)

Dozier, who grew up in Kentucky, completed his tour of duty in Iraq in 2006. After that, he worked as a hydroelectric plant mechanic for the Bureau of Reclamation in Colorado before moving to Minnesota five years ago.

Two years ago, Dozier suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries while riding his motorcycle and had to hit the ditch to avoid a head-on collision with another vehicle.

After working as a personal trainer at the Menahga Gymnasium, he worked hard to rehabilitate his body so that it could be active again.

“I have had over 30 broken bones,” he said. “Feet, vertebrae, ribs, fingers, collarbone and shoulder blades. The impact tore my liver in half and left a hole in my kidney.

“I kept my faith strong and I knew God would heal me. Even through incredible pain. I just kept believing. I knew he had plans for me to do something more in this life, to help people. I made a full recovery in six months.

Dozier uses the experience of his own accident to help those who are on their own path to recovery.

In addition to providing errands, Dozier offers its customers a listening ear, support and encouragement along the way, and offers a helping hand to those going through a difficult time in their lives.

No distance is too big or too small. “I will go wherever people need me,” he said. “In a few weeks I’m taking a woman and her husband to Louisiana. They were camping here with their family and she fell and broke her leg, and now they need help getting home.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dozier was considering adding another van but decided to wait.

“I’m glad I did, as people needing to go to doctor’s appointments have slowed down a lot during this time,” he said, adding that business has grown steadily this time. year as the restrictions were lifted.

Give much more than rides

One of the bikers Dozier helped is Mary Ann Pech, who is 80 years old and lives in the Nevis, Minnesota area. She needed a come home this winter after being released from CHI St. Joseph’s Hospital in Park Rapids. A staff member gave him information about Freedom Express.

“I was amazed at how accommodating and helpful Mike was,” Pech said. “He just didn’t drive me. On the way back, he took me to the pharmacy to take a prescription. He was very kind and kind.

“He could have dropped me off at the door when the ride was over, but he took me inside on a chair where I would be comfortable, asked me many things to make sure I was taken care of and didn’t leave before he was sure to have neighbors who could help me.

This experience meant a lot to Pech.

“When you’re not yourself, when you’re not feeling well, you don’t just need the ride. You need someone who is loving and kind, “she said.” They are a friend when you need them badly. Providing the ride is just the beginning of the story. It is the person who drives the vehicle that makes it special. When you need that ride, there’s a reason behind it. You need that helping hand. He’s a man of God all the way and it was such a blessing to me.

Dozier is particularly sensitive to the needs of veterans in the region who often have to travel to the VA Hospital in Fargo to receive the medical care they need.

“The Disabled American Veterans Organization does a great job of getting veterans on free appointments, but they can’t get everyone where they need to go, so that’s where I come in. “said Dozier. “The price of some medical driving services is too high for those who are not covered by insurance, and that is why I have worked hard to keep the travel costs as affordable as possible.”

“I am grateful that there are veterans who are able to help other veterans,” said Jerry Bjerke, veterans duty officer for Hubbard County. “We took care of each other on duty and now we can do it off duty. It’s great that he has an ADA accessible van. This fills a niche that most other organizations cannot.


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