Friends in Need

The Coronavirus pandemic has created many needs in the community and people are generously stepping up to help

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt The Red Cross was seeing a blood shortage when COVID-19 first hit. Fortunately the number of appointments have recently increased. The blood supply is beginning to even out.

NEW ULM — There is a famous quote that in scary times, look for the helpers. Even in the worst of times you will find people helping.

The coronavirus pandemic is a frightening time but there are people helping through volunteering and donations. In the local community people are stepping up to help where it is most needed.



The New Ulm Medical Center is full of staff willing to help patients. The spread of the coronavirus is a real concern and there is a need for protective gear. A medical mask drive is running through Sunday, April 5. Every day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. staff collected donated masks from a donation box in back of NUMC.

donation drive for protective mask has been going on at NUMC for the past few weeks. Collectively, the community has donated over 10,000 surgical mask, 1,000 home-sewn masks and several boxes of N-95 masks donated from individuals and groups.

By Tuesday, the mask drive had successfully collected 10,000 surgical masks, 1,000 home-sewn masks and over 550 N-95 masks for other donors. The N-95 mask donations continue to come in regularly. On Tuesday alone, several hundred masks were donated to NUMC. This was through a combination of supply purchased and homemade masks.

Allina Health has released a sewing pattern for medical protection masks on its homepage. Many local individuals and organizations have taken to sewing these masks in their downtime.

One of the more surprising sources for the homemade masks is the Brown County Detox Center. The facilities executive director Amanda Schuknecht said the Detox Center will remain open during the stay-at-home order as it is considered an essential operation Their main focus is their patients but during downtime the staff has been creating masks for NUMC.

Schuknecht said staff brought in the fabric, elastic and a sewing machine to help with the process. Not every staff member sews, but some cut patterns, others pin materials.

Schuknecht said she was really impressed with what the staff can do. She estimates they have made over 200 masks for the hospital.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Meals on Wheels continues to operate as it did before the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of delivered meals has increased as congregate dining went away, but curbside pickup is still available.

“It is awesome to see them come together,” Schuknecht said. “We’re glad we can provide some help to other medical providers. If we can help we will.”

NUMC Human Resource Director Katie Sletta said before the mask drive had even begun, AMPI donated several boxes of N-95 masks

The staff has also received dozens of cards expressing gratitude for the work they are doing.

“It has buoyed our spirits,” Sletta said.

Recently Thrivent Financial ordered flowers from A to Zinnia for delivery to NUMC staff. NUMC was touched by this display of generosity.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt The Brown County Food Shelf has needed to reorganized how clients are supplied with food, but the food supply remains in balance and cash donations are double the initial goal for the month.

Sletta said it was this level of support in the community that made things work. “We wouldn’t want to be in any other community in the nation,” she said.

Another major hospital need is blood. When the coronavirus hit, the Red Cross saw a decrease in blood donations as many were worried about the virus. Some planned Bloodmobile stops needed to be relocated, but the news has been good since the Red Cross put out the call for more donations.

Mark Probasco was with the bloodmobile in the NUMC parking lot Tuesday. He said they were full on appointments for the day and already had an appointment book full for Friday. The result is the blood supply starting to balance out thanks to stepped up donations.

“It is really terrific,” Probasco said. “It has brought out a lot of good will.”


Access to food and grocery has been a concern since the start of the pandemic. The Brown County Food Shelf has remained active throughout the crisis, but has had to change how it operates.

The Food Shelf is located at 1305 S. Valley, and is open noon to 2:45 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. the first Monday of the month.

Food Shelf Director Brad Kirk said the clients can no longer come into the building. Clients park their vehicle near the food shelf, walk to it, sign in with their first and last name, number of household members, vehicle make and color, and record the number of the line they sign in at.

Clients then return to their vehicle, watching for posted numbers on a pillar. When their number is posted, they pull into the driveway and open a door or trunk where they want food to be loaded, and get back in the vehicle. A volunteer will load food for clients who are asked to pull out of the food shelf driveway after their food is loaded.

The good news is cash donations are up. Kirk said he set the donation goal for this month at $15,000. He set this goal before COVID-19 hit big. As of April 1, the food shelf has received $31,000 in donations.

“It has put people in a giving mood and we are thankful for that,” he said.

In terms of donations, the food shelf is doing okay. Kirk said there is no shortage on the food supply yet. There is a shortage of disinfectant products, but that is a universal problem. The biggest change is clients must remain outside the building.

Finding volunteers is a concern. Kirk said the majority of food shelf volunteers are over 65 and are at a greater risk during this pandemic. Fortunately some younger volunteers have become available to help.

Kirk thanked those volunteers for helping. He said we couldn’t do this without their support.


Other charity organizations have experienced significant changes in the last few weeks. Lutheran Social Service (LSS) has been running the senior dining program out of the New Ulm Community Center for years. The virus put a halt to the communal dining, but the Meals on Wheels program and the pickup service continues.

Approximately 90 people work and volunteer with LSS to provide a warm meal for senior citizens. Recently, the Meals on Wheels program has been providing around 180 meals every weekday. Around 70 percent of those meals are in New Ulm with the other 30 percent going to other communities.

LSS is also offering curbside pickup for seniors at the community center. Around a dozen curbside pickups are made each weekday.

Staff said the meal preparation and delivery has remained the same, with the only congregate dining being eliminated.

Meals on Wheel has gone to greater effort to provide seniors with an extra meal. This includes shelf stable food and frozen meals. The extra food is saved for the weekend or emergency.

These are some of the few ways community members are helping and supporting each during this health crisis. There are countless others working to assist in these trying times. Even in the darkness hours there are those offering a little light.


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