Minnesotans: You are a kind lot. I’ve been compiling a growing list of selfless, creative and often courageous acts you’ve shown toward family members, friends and strangers. I am sorry I cannot list them all, but do keep e-mailing them my way. They buoy me as I hope they buoy you.
More than 30 of 57 households on a Pillsbury block in south Minneapolis have signed up on Nextdoor.com to stay connected and do good deeds together throughout the pandemic. Their first collective effort: Making sure their neighbor, kindergartner Teddy Rockwell, had a memorable 6th birthday. Memorable as in happy memorable. As neighbor Terre Thomas explained: “Since he couldn’t have a birthday party with his friends, we decided to put birthday signs in windows and decorate sidewalks with birthday wishes for him.” Telling Teddy that she had a surprise for him, his mom and sisters took him on a walk around the block at 5:30 p.m. on March 30. Well-wishers waved and sang to him from porches and doorways. The outcome, Thomas said: “Precious.”
Beth McDowell of Cottage Grove decided with her mother, Dolores, to purge some unneeded furnishings from their house. But with all the donation centers closed, they knew their items would just move from one part of the house to the other. So they put the furnishing at the end of their driveway and advertised them free on Facebook Marketplace. About two hours later, a woman pulled up and they talked through the window. The woman had just moved and had nothing, McDowell said. “We were grateful to get rid of it and she was grateful to receive. She touched her heart and said, ‘You are a blessing to me.’ ”
Sewers with Boomerang Bags (facebook.com/groups/BoomerangBagsMpls) — those colorful reusable bags for grocery stores — have pivoted to making masks. For the past several weeks, the volunteers have primarily used patterns provided by North Memorial (northmemorial.com/covid-19-donation) and Blue Cross Blue Shield (blog.bluecrossmn.com/covid19masks). The masks, while not designed to replace N95 masks, are an important backup for non-front line people at hospitals and elsewhere. Sewer Susie Risher of Roseville has already made about 500 masks, which have made their way to friends in New York City as well as nursing homes and hospitals across the country. Her goal is to sew 1,000 masks. “I was feeling an overwhelming sense of hopelessness,” Risher said. “Helping people feeds my soul.” Organizations needing DIY masks can request them via a form on the Facebook page above.
In a related move, Steve Kriesel, president of Minneapolis-based Glenn Cronkhite custom cases for brass players has shifted some of his production to CDC-compliant face masks. Kriesel’s wife, her aunt and her brother are all nurses, “so the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages seen around the world are personal to me.” Kriesel sent everybody on his staff home a few weeks ago with sewing machines. With industrial cutting equipment, a domestic supply chain and professional production sewers, they’re able to make thousands of masks a week, including 6,000 delivered to the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 for bus drivers. “Without the community support, I was ready to close the doors and send my talented people home, possibly for good. Instead, we’re another resource that is making masks locally — which helps our community fight the virus.” To support their effort, go to glennchronkhite.com.
Jonah Sargent, program manager for Footprint Project, a Minneapolis-based solar disaster response NGO, has sent clean energy assets to power a COVID clinic supporting 3,500-plus asylum-seekers trapped in a camp at the Mexican border. Sargent said a large outpouring of support through a Facebook fundraiser funded the project in under 24 hours. Now they’re thinking bigger: Providing enough clean energy to power the entire clinic. More at footprintproject.org.
In Plymouth, children at New Horizon Academy showed love and support for health care professionals by creating cards and messages of support for local doctors, nurses and others engaged in the coronavirus fight. The effort is called “Caring Beyond the Classroom,” with the goal of developing a lifelong commitment to service, collaboration and social responsibility in children, said Cara Johnson-Bader, vice president of marketing and parent experiences. Some schools sent the cards with a parent who works at the hospital, while others mailed them, she said. “During these times of uncertainty, it is important to communicate what is happening in age-appropriate ways. Acts of kindness help children navigate their way through fear and confusion.”
Patti Lazarus of St. Paul’s Mac-Groveland neighborhood e-mailed me about a neighborhood initiative to help save Hot Hands, a new bakery and restaurant at 227 Snelling Av. They launched Pie in the Sky. Hot Hands invited people to pay ahead in a “get a slice, give a slice” proposition. The day the initiative went up, owner Tara Coleman got nearly 40 phone calls with orders. Today, Hot Hands has hundreds of fans ordering food for themselves or to be donated to others, including workers at Abbott Northwestern.
Max Davis of St. Louis Park called to let me know that everybody was “paying it forward” at the Starbuck’s drive-through line on Minnetonka Boulevard. Other readers have let me know that they’re placing teddy bears and other stuffed animals in their front windows to cheer children walking past.
James McKenzie tipped me off to the sweet story of Emel Sherzad, whose St. Paul restaurant, Khyber Pass, was saved by a GoFundMe campaign. “Basically, the GoFundMe campaign saved us from total panic,” said Sherzad, who fled his native Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion and came to Minnesota to attend Macalester College. “It bought us some time to organize our online sales and provided us with some funds for rent, wages and other expenses. The community response and generosity were overwhelming.” Sherzad, who hosts a jazz program on KFAI and at the restaurant after closing every Thursday night, added that he “can’t wait to resume these soul-sustaining activities, whether it’s music, food or simply greeting and welcoming beautiful people.”
Girl Scouts River Valleys has launched “Cookies for a Cause” to share cookies with people on the front lines. Spokeswoman Tammy Freese said individuals and businesses can make online cookie purchases through April 26. The scouts will deliver cookies to those who are working to provide meals to kids, police and first responders, and food shelves. “Ahead of the executive [stay at home] order, we made sure the deliveries were made in a safe manner with minimal contact to these agencies while practicing social distancing and taking the necessary staff safety precautions,” Freese said. “We will continue with those precautions as the deliveries resume.” Order at cookies4cause.girlscoutsrv.org.