Anna Marie Nickelson and Myriah Myers
We are a 250-unit condo building in the heart of Minneapolis. We have residents of all ages, stages and demographics. At the beginning of the pandemic, building attendants were considered “essential workers” and were required to continue working despite the fear, dangers and unknown issues related to COVID-19. With such a large building and so many residents, guests, contractors, food deliveries, cleaners, etc., the front desk staff was faced with dealing with hundreds of people from the public on a daily basis. Plexiglass was quickly put in place and the homeowners association board had to have numerous meetings to mandate mask wearing. Throughout the pandemic and to this day, Anna Marie Nickelson and Myriah Myers have been our “rocks.” They remain upbeat and helpful. Working with their management and the residents, these two have held the Carlyle community together and held it together safely.
Sheila A. Gallagher
In April, my son was diagnosed with leukemia. Christina, a second-grade teacher at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Elk River, who I did not know very well, contacted me and said she would love to pick up and deliver groceries for me. For six months now, she has been doing most of my grocery shopping. It’s funny, because sometimes she knows better than I do what groceries my house needs. After I text her my grocery list, she’ll text me back and say, “Are you sure you don’t need more orange juice?” And she is usually right. I forgot we were low on orange juice! Christina has been a ray of sunshine during this dark time of our lives. I call her my grocery angel and a new friend.
I mentioned to my friend, Josephine Chung, child psychologist and former parent association president, how hard it was for my 9-year-old daughter to watch her friends return to school while she stayed in distance learning. Jo dropped off care packages signed by the “distance learning fairy.” The best part? The packages were delivered by a ginormous pikachu who mirror-danced with my daughter on the porch. My daughter will never forget the dancing pikachu!
My hero is my grandma, Freada, who is 92. She and Marvin Eisenstein, who is 91, began dating during the pandemic after Marvin’s daughter introduced them, and they got married in July. Only immediate family and close friends were in attendance at the outdoor, mask-required, socially distant ceremony, with an audience of about 75 Zoom guests from Israel to France and across the U.S. Since their cruise plans were canceled, they went on a road trip honeymoon. May they stay forever young!
I count myself lucky on the days I see Celia Swanson’s smiling face, reminding me that despite bad news, there is so much good in the world that goes unreported. Celia leads InterPlay, a practice that helps us live in our bodies, shed excess energy, and be who we are to make the world a better place. In addition to regular Zoom sessions, she’s added outdoors in a park with safe distancing. She gives me so much to be grateful for!
Julie Billups has been making masks for people through the neighborhood app NextDoor. She’s made several for my family. They are great quality and public health recommendation compliant. She has tons of fabric choices and is always careful to ask the age of the person the mask is for so she can offer fabric suggestions: Disney princesses for a young girl, Spiderman print for little boys, Vikings or Minnesota Wild colors, jewel tones for an older woman, etc. She doesn’t ask for payment; only a voluntary donation to cover her supplies and additional fabric so she can keep making masks. Here is a picture of my family wearing masks she made for us.
My hero is my husband, Chris Montana. With every twist and turn 2020 has offered, he has committed himself to be of service to the community. When COVID began, he worked tirelessly to provide the community with hand sanitizer at reduced rates. After the civil unrest in May, he dedicated time and funds to feed over 400 families daily in the community to help overcome the food desert. At every turn, he has charged ahead to create real and lasting change when able. He has many ideas in the works and I know his future aspirations are not for him, but for the real change he knows he can create for the community and particularly the world his three sons will grow up in.
My hero is my husband, Minneapolis illustrator Marty Harris. Marty has taken the opportunity during the weeks of sheltering in place to create portraits of nurses and other caregivers who are on the front lines of fighting COVID-19. He started by participating in the campaign in Great Britain honoring National Health Service (NHS) nurses, #portraitsfornhsheroes. Using hashtags on Instagram, nurses have contacted him and sent in a photo of themselves which he uses to create a digital portrait. To date he’s created 10 portraits of nurses from Oban, Scotland, to New York City. After he created an illustration of Lauren Leander (above), her father Tom wrote, in part, “This has provided added inspiration for Lauren to utilize this platform toward greater purposes. Lauren is currently shining a spotlight on the Navajo population that has been devastated by the virus. Her fundraising has gone over $100k and it’s artwork like yours that helps instill confidence to keep moving forward with meaningful projects.”
Elizabeth and Paul Damico-Carper
Every night at 7 p.m., rain or shine, Elizabeth and Paul Damico-Carper of St. Paul log on to Facebook Live and lead a live community hymn sing. It’s a balm to those of us who miss going to church and singing with our friends and family in person, and when I’m working long hours it’s a nice 10-minute divider between work time and home time. Paul, a music director at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, and Elizabeth, pastor at Memorial Lutheran Church in Afton, started doing this in mid-March, broadcasting to whoever was online at the time. It’s turned into a little ritual for many of us in the Twin Cities and across the United States, providing some normalcy in really abnormal times.
Allie Hawley March
my husband Bob
Bob has stepped up to the plate and done all the shopping since March. I have stage 4 breast cancer and am advised to stay out of the stores. Sometimes I get grapes when I’m hungry for Bing cherries but we are all learning to be patient and kind during this trying time. I love him for all he does. He is my hero.
As a medically vulnerable senior, I am especially grateful for my daughter, Nicole. Despite her busy schedule as a school counselor and mom of two young children, she has been there for my husband and me, providing the ingredient I needed to make a special dinner on our 50th wedding anniversary, texting regularly and visiting frequently. The past few months have been not only tolerable but at times enjoyable!
My mom Lisa has been absolutely indispensable over the last six months. She has stepped up to help in a multitude of ways, from regularly babysitting our toddlers so we can focus on our jobs, to picking up groceries, to managing preschool pickups and drop-offs, and much more! She does all this while continuing to care for her patients as a nurse in a long-term care home. We are so thankful for her every day!
My hero is plural! It’s a group of buddies doing way more than “hanging out.” On Jan. 18, my brother Bill was diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer. One day, he was Captain Bill Marlow, flying for Target Corp., and the next afternoon he was diagnosed with a deadly disease. Of course, his family surrounded Bill but so did these lifelong buddies. Treatments began as did COVID, which really is a predicament for anyone getting medical treatments. Bill needed rides for treatments and to get out for some fun. These buddies were up for anything, including a trip to Phoenix. Karlie, his 23-year-old daughter (another hero), leads his 24/7 care team of family and lifelong buddies taking shifts each day, including overnights. These guys have jobs and families but they are so dedicated to the “Captain” and keeping his days happy and at home. Jack, Bobby, Cliff, Jay, Charlie, Jeff, Scootch, Dave, Elroy and Bert, thank you for showing me how to love in the most difficult times.
My hero is my friend, Diane Prange, and her therapy dog, a Siberian husky named Myshkin. Her innovative thinking has helped North Star Therapy Animals provide pet therapy during COVID. She has promoted parades at care centers and hospitals and created window visits to further spread cheer. Creating movies and having other therapy teams gather on Zoom to record personalized messages to facilities we normally visited before COVID has brought happiness and an uplifting message to so many. She continues to be creative in her ideas to get the therapy animals present in the community. She continues to bring joy to so many during COVID-19.
Terry Kotula Gardner
My sister, Terry, spent hours and hours bent over a sewing machine sewing hundreds of masks for local hospitals, family and friends when supplies were low. She scouted out precious elastic that was also scarce and found so many different fun fabrics to lighten up the recipients’ day. But she didn’t stop there. She also contributed dozens of jars of delicious homemade raspberry jam to Hunger Solutions and pitched in to care for our elderly mother when we had to rescue her from a COVID-19 infected building. My sister has such a generous heart. She is never just a bystander, but always someone lending a hand to be part of the solution.
The Everest Sons
My three adult sons, James, Peter and Robert (pictured above), live nearby and have made it clear that I am to avoid shopping where there are crowds. They have been doing my grocery shopping for me and making deliveries directly to my door. I reimburse them for the groceries, plus a delivery fee. I prepare my shopping list using the Google Keep List application. They then just check off the items while shopping. It is a great help to me and saves me from having to go out and possibly be exposed to COVID-19.
A number of us in the St. Paul area worked out regularly with trainer Jeanne prior to COVID. She immediately pivoted to an online format to keep our group working out together via Zoom. The ability to keep a connection with others and to keep moving felt so positive in a time of uncertainty. And Jeanne has the best laugh ever, so having that joyful laugh in all of our homes as we continued to stay healthy felt amazing.
Mrs. Pixler realizes that what we as 8th graders are being asked to do, in terms of organizing and doing our schoolwork, is often beyond our skill level. She is willing to do anything to help us. She will help us with an assignment, help us connect with another teacher, or give us extra time to complete an assignment. She does her absolute best to make everything as easy as possible during this difficult and unusual time.
My grandmother allowed me to stay at her house with her because my mother had to isolate at home. I went to Grandma’s house until my mother’s 14 days of isolation was done. I’m glad I had my grandma to help me at that time.
This is not to the individuals ...
It is to the young — teens and early twenties — people ...
The much maligned millennials ...
Excellent work, you millennials! With the new and inventive ways you have come up with in helping and giving.
It has truly gladdened my heart and deeply humbled me.
from a Gen X-er
When the lockdown began, Vonda began a series of virtual coffee breaks, which are ongoing. Even though our faculty and staff at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities are no longer gathered in person, Vonda created space for people to connect on a human level and get to know each other better. Each coffee break has a theme that Vonda has thoughtfully curated, such as “naming one or more persons you would like to honor because of the strong and special love they have shown you,” to asking us to submit photos of our favorite and most-missed State Fair food-on-a-stick. Vonda has helped lighten our load.
Todd and Michelle Behr
During the recent unrest on Lake Street in Minneapolis, my 25-year-old disabled son left an abusive home, without his cellphone. He was on the streets for several days, in the midst of the riots, sleeping in doorways. Todd and Michelle Behr, strangers to Andre, saw that he was someone with special needs who needed help. Despite COVID-19 concerns, they offered him food, a place to stay for the night, and helped him contact family who came immediately and took him home. Andre now has a new guardian and a safe place to live. Our family is very grateful for the loving kindness Todd and Michelle showed to him in a time of great need.
In our small community of Faribault, Minn., many of our seniors depend on the program Meals on Wheels for their daily food or hot meal. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, this program has been canceled. Because many of these older residents have no family or friends to depend on, Joette Schirmer decided to take it upon herself to make meals and deliver them herself. Not only is she an excellent cook and makes everything from scratch, but she takes the time to visit with people and makes them feel special. They look forward to her warm meal, beautiful smile and conversation.
Shawna Hedlund and Lisa Keith
Shawna and Lisa have been tireless champions for the residents of the Lake Nokomis homeless encampment during the COVID-19 crisis. Shawna notified the local neighborhood Facebook group to help organize a list of items the group needed and connected people with resources including other neighbors and nonprofits. Lisa helped get volunteers in the surrounding neighborhood to organize a daily meals schedule. I want to acknowledge and thank them for all their help.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, about 20 women and one man have been gathering at a park in Burnsville. Our wellness hero Jane was an exercise instructor before COVID-19, but through word of mouth, people started showing up at her volunteer class outdoors. For the seniors who participate, Jane championed a safe opportunity for wellness and socialization which keeps us going and we vow will continue until the snow flies!
My father has helped me through the pandemic by helping me get my school work done when I get stressed out. He would take my mind off things by playing board games, watching TV or just talking. My other person I would like to say is my mom. She would take me places, make me laugh, work things out by talking. Both of my parents have done so much for me during this time, being flexible with my schedule and always making room for me in the end.
Ali Crofts, assistant park manager at Afton State Park, was on the job less than two months when COVID-19 hit and park use surged. Short-staffed and underfunded, she did not flinch. Lacking guidance from the state, she opened the park and welcomed streams of weary, anxious guests. She could have stayed home and played it safe. She leaned in, guided her staff and made the park a source of joy and renewal for thousands of guests this summer.
Sharon Critzer coordinated the effort of hundreds of people at Grace Church to sew masks out of operating room recycled surgical wrap for the staff of North Memorial Health Hospital. These masks can be sterilized with hospital equipment for reuse.
alissa walters, connie cummings and nicole arratia-walters
These three teachers are my heroes. They were working tirelessly during a family vacation sharing distance-learning strategies. We love them! And so do their students.
Stacy E. Walters
My little brother, Trystyn, has helped lighten my load by playing games with me and making it fun to be around. He is very positive and always laughing.