When you see something positive taking place, send an email with the details to news@rivertowns.net. Use "Signs of a healthy community" in the subject line. This story was last updated 11:16 a.m. April 3.

April 3

East metro cleaners offer free home cleanings to health care workers, first responders

Sparkle Plenty Professional Cleaners wants to make sure those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have a clean space to come home to.

The east metro-based cleaning service is offering free home cleanings to health care workers and first responders, like police officers, firefighters and EMTs. Owner Lynn Thoele said "fantastic, generous clients" have been helping provide these free cleanings by donating money. More people have donated than have filled spots for the free cleanings, Thoele said.

Though the company typically serves the east metro, Thoele said they are willing to go anywhere in the Twin Cities area.

The initiative is an extension of Sparkle Plenty's Cleaning for Heroes, which began this year and offered one free house cleaning per month for a police officer, firefighter or EMT living in the east metro. The company has also worked for about three years with Texas foundation Cleaning For A Reason to provide free home cleanings to cancer patients.

To nominate someone for a free cleaning, call 612-669-1606 or email lynn@sparklemn.com.

Faith, love and hope in Red Wing

A message in faux stained glass reads "Faith Love Hope" at this Bush Street residence in Red Wing. Photo courtesy of Michelle Wyatt
A message in faux stained glass reads "Faith Love Hope" at this Bush Street residence in Red Wing. Photo courtesy of Michelle Wyatt

Young artist Brandon Holden with help from his brother, Braxton Jurek, were inspired this week to paint "Faith Love Hope" and a stained glass effect in the front door and windows at a Bush Street residence in Red Wing.

Fourth-grader Brandon Holden paints the front windows of residence on Bush Street in Red Wing. The young artist was joined in the project by his older brother, Braxton Jurek. Photo courtesy of Michelle Wyatt
Fourth-grader Brandon Holden paints the front windows of residence on Bush Street in Red Wing. The young artist was joined in the project by his older brother, Braxton Jurek. Photo courtesy of Michelle Wyatt

March 31

A hangout and chat at River Falls High School — responsively

On the night before Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order went into effect, a group of six girls from River Falls High School drove in separate cars to the school parking lot and backed their cars into a circle, according to Amy Gullickson, mother of one of the girls. The girls then opened the backs of their cars, wrapped up in blankets and talked to each other while maintaining good social distancing.

As might be expected, a group of cars in a parking lot drew the attention of sheriff’s deputies who pulled in to see what was going on. They complimented the girls on keeping their distance, then joined in the conversation, staying an hour to visit with the girls, answer questions about their jobs and enjoy the final evening before the statewide order went into effect.

March 30

MCF-Red Wing makes crafts for nursing home residents

Photo courtesy MCF-Red Wing
Photo courtesy MCF-Red Wing

On March 26-27, 32 residents and 6 staff members from the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing made over 200 cards and crafts that will be sent to local nursing homes in Red Wing.

After seeing a similar idea from a Facebook post, Recreational Therapist Brooke Juliar and Volunteer Coordinator Elise Goebel knew that MCF-Red Wing residents would enjoy doing this for the community. The residents at MCF-RW know firsthand how some of the residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities that are unable to have visitors are feeling, as they too cannot have in-person visitors at this time.

Our residents volunteered to do this activity as a way to give back to the community during this difficult time. While practicing social distancing, some of the Recreation and Volunteer Services Department staff members will be delivering these items across the community in the next few days.

Submitted by MCF-Red Wing

Dental lab group prints face shields

Apex Dental Laboratory Group, a group of 12 dental laboratories nationwide including Hastings and Eau Claire, is helping in the fight against COVID-19 by printing face shields for the health care professions.

We are all in this together, and being that Apex Dental Laboratories are shut down, we are utilizing our 3D printers to help in this crisis by printing face shields for the front line health care providers, said Gary Iocco, chairman of the Apex Dental Laboratory Group.


CVTC students practice trades while helping others

A worker prepares meals at the Midwest Meals facility in Eau Claire. CVTC Culinary Management students will be completing their kitchen work at home using materials assembled by the company, including packaging like those shown here. Photo courtesy Chippewa Valley Technical College
A worker prepares meals at the Midwest Meals facility in Eau Claire. CVTC Culinary Management students will be completing their kitchen work at home using materials assembled by the company, including packaging like those shown here. Photo courtesy Chippewa Valley Technical College

EAU CLAIRE — When leaders of culinary programs throughout the state technical college system held a conference call to talk about how to handle instruction when face-to-face classes stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic, Chippewa Valley Technical College Culinary Chef Kevin Brown came with ideas.

“We figured out how we could build some to-go packages for the students,” Brown said. “They would pull up to the back door and pick up ingredients and materials and put them together at home.”

When Governor Tony Evers issued his safer-at-home order, having the students pick up packages at the college wasn’t going to be allowed. Brown came up with another idea. He contacted Dan Beck of Midwest Meals, an Eau Claire-based pre-packaged meals company, which has a retail store in the Eastridge Center that remains open.

Brown also contacted Eric Wolfe of Nutri-Pret Meals, Midwest Meals’ parent company, who fashioned an existing partnership between Midwest Meals and the CVTC Culinary Management program. A new partnership was worked out in which the company would purchase supplies for the students and provide its packaging.

The students will pick up a box of supplies, prepare the food in the Midwest Meals packaging, and send photos or videos along with a self-evaluation to the instructors. They would pick up new supplies each week.

“I am overwhelmed by the level of service Midwest Meals is able to give us,” Brown said. “The College will reimburse them for the food and supplies, but we aren’t being charged anything for the labor to put it all together.”

Submitted by Chippewa Valley Technical College

Pay it Forward baskets bring cheer in Hudson

Some residents in Hudson were surprised with baskets on their door steps.

The baskets, delivered by Grand Fete, contained items from other businesses including food, lotions and creams and flowers.

“It was just something to brighten someone’s day, and let them know that they care,” Kay Timm of Grand Fete said.

The baskets were done at-cost by the businesses.

It was an extremely rewarding project, Timm said. Many of the baskets were sent anonymously.

“The smiles and the cheer that it obviously gave people that received these really warmed all of our hearts,” Timm said.

March 28

A parade for Sammie in Hammond, Wis.

Many of you are aware that Sammie Criego has been battling cancer since 2018. At this time, Sammie and her family have made the difficult decision to end treatments and begin hospice care. Although Sammie would love to have visitors at this time, it is just not an option with the current health care pandemic we are experiencing. Therefore, we are asking those that would like to send Sammie a message or a “virtual” hug, to join us on Monday, March 30 at 10:50 a.m. We plan to do a parade of sorts passing by Sammie so that we can surround her with love from afar.

This is the plan:

  • 10:50 – Meet at the middle school parking lot. Do not get out of your car to visit with others. You may only get out of your car to affix a sign or banner.
  • 11:00 – The Hammond Police will lead the procession passed Sammie and her family. The route will leave the middle school, go west on Second St, north on West St and then east on Third St. After you reach Third St and Ridgeway – you are free to go home, as congregating is not allowed under the current “Safer At Home” order.

Here are some guidelines to follow to keep everyone safe:

  1. Drive slowly – do not stop
  2. You may shout a wish or message to her as you drive by but do not stop.
  3. Banners or window paint on your car are encouraged
  4. If you have a card or gift for Sammie, a representative from the police department will collect these at the end of the parade route on the corner of Ridgeway and Third St. We will bring these cards and/or gifts to the family. (We want to keep Sammie and her family safe from germs).

Any questions can be directed to the Hammond Police Department at 715-796-2345.

Chief Rick Coltrain, Hammond, Wis. Police Department

March 27

Spreading a world of hearts

Photo courtesy Jonell Sam
Photo courtesy Jonell Sam

Jonell Sam of Red Wing shared this photo of a craft project by her 26-year-old son, Skylor, who was disabled in August 2017. The idea came from the Facebook campaign #aworldofhearts to put pictures of hearts in windows as a show of solidarity. Her son and his two personal care assistants posted the picture, which received more than 2,000 "Likes" in less than four hours. It has since climbed to over 3,500 likes and growing.

Sam wrote: "He loved this project and it brought joy to us all! He now has something to look forward to as each day he goes on his tablet to read the new comments and see how many likes he has."

Woodbury Community Foundation helps local families with $11,500 in emergency grants during COVID-19 crisis

The Woodbury Community Foundation Board awarded $11,500 to the COVID-19 Emergency Grants on Friday.

The grants were awarded to the following non-profits:

  • Canvas Health to meet local mental health needs through telehealth.
  • Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf to help 600 families in need right now.
  • SoWashCo CARES to feed hundreds of hungry kids dependent on school lunches.
  • Woodbury YMCA to help support their emergency childcare program.

“We’re all in this together. We, at your community foundation, want to immediately help ourneighbors with this emergency funding,” said Roger Green, Chair, Woodbury CommunityFoundation. “COVID-19 is an example of our opportunity to take a rapid response to a rapidly emerging community urgent need. Responding to the COVID-10 crisis is how the Woodbury Community Foundation can make a difference for our community. “

March 26

Good shines through

The coronavirus and COVID-19 were mostly unknown terms as the world ushered in a new decade just a few weeks ago. They are now at the forefront, impacting the world’s health, way of life, and economy.

Throughout the mostly bad news, there are shining examples of good deeds, done by average people, perhaps following the subtle command of the mega-company possessing the distinctive swoosh, “Just Do It.”

Some random examples:

  • New Richmond, Wisconsin’s own 45th Parallel Distillery is producing hand sanitizer for residents and businesses willing to drive to the distillery for the product. Sanitizer was distributed free of charge, but many donated money to offset production costs. Batch #2 is underway. #3 will likely follow. Bring your own container and some loose change or George Washington’s. An Abe Lincoln wouldn’t mind getting tossed in either.
  • A local restaurateur, hurt by the downturn too, provides gift cards from other local restaurants and bars, as part of take-out orders.
  • Clinic and hospital staffers are on the front line of illness and chronic health problems.
  • A faithful son visits his elderly father every day from the outside of a closed nursing home window, both using cell phones when in-person visits were prohibited.
  • Nursing homes created their own version of B-I-N-G-O by wheeling residents to door openings in the hallway to play along at safe distances.
  • St. Paul, Minnesota’s Mac-Groveland neighbors deploy 10-foot chalk circles for personal space during evening exercises. The exercises are known as radio calisthenics, or rajio taiso, and goes back to 1928 with the introduction of community- or employer-led exercises in Japan. Some stay in their chalk circles after the workouts just to visit. Neighbors getting to know neighbors! The number of participants now extends beyond a small neighborhood. Keep it going!
  • In Drayton, North Dakota, the community held a drive-by celebration past a 7-year old’s front yard when his birthday party was cancelled. The drive-by was led by a couple of wailing fire trucks, then classmates, then neighbors. Drayton’s population holds steady at around 850 very neighborly residents.
  • Kyle Rudolph, a tight end with the Minnesota Vikings, who sports jersey #82, pledged a donation of 82,000 meals to those in need. Ha! A marauding Viking with a heart. Other pro athletes representing other sports set-up funds for laid-off arena workers.
  • Retail associates, full- and part-time, restock shelves as fast as truckloads come in, and others operate cash registers with lines that seem too long for a typical Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday morning, afternoon, or evening. One part-time grocery store associate said, “Today I unloaded two pallets of yogurt that were taller than me. And many shoppers thanked us for doing our part.”
  • Modern day Rube Goldberg’s employ high-tech 3D printers to create N95 safety masks for healthcare workers; others converted their production lines to manufacture face shields and other high demand products. Meanwhile, as the call went out for donated N95 masks, many, many painting contractors, general contractors, and manufacturers jumped in.
  • As taprooms closed, micro-brewery owners worked together on new distribution channels and creative ways for pick-up orders in their parking lots.

Examples go on and continue to grow. Next time you see someone on the frontline, offer them encouragement and a big thank-you. They’ve earned it. Mightily.

Bill Rubin, Search Results Web results St. Croix Economic Development Corporation, Hudson

March 24

Little Free Pantry in Hastings

Donna Didriskon shared this photo of a Little Free Library converted to a pantry on East Fourth Street in Hastings.

Photo courtesy Donna Didrikson
Photo courtesy Donna Didrikson

Sweet little extras to a great New Richmond school lunch program

Bobbie Guyette, director of New Richmond Schools Food Service, got Free Food for Kids going as soon as she heard we would close school. She and her staff have done a remarkable job and several of us have volunteered for delivering food, including Karen Storie, owner of Street Treats ice cream truck. Storie offered use of the truck to deliver all the food. She is a Kiwanis member.

Added to the fun, the Kiwanis of New Richmond Easter Egg Hunt was canceled but that candy will be added to the food truck for children to enjoy as part of food distribution.

Good things are happening.

— Greg Kier, New Richmond

Supporting Hudson antique store supports local charities

RiverTown Multimedia last year wrote about the opening of a vintage and antiques store, Nostalgia, in Hudson. The owners shared this update on Tuesday:

"Here a year later we are forced to close due to the crisis and are not sure when we can re-open for business.

"Fortunately, we have been given a great opportunity by an anonymous donor who loves our store. They are offering to match dollar for dollar any gift card over $25 bought from Nostalgia during our closure to help support the store. They, in turn, will donate a matching amount to one of the 3 local charities below. So customers will buy a gift card from Nostalgia to help support our store and the 40 small businesses inside of it, during the closure. The cards can be saved or given as gifts to be redeemed once the store reopens. For every card sold, the charity will receive the same amount. Pretty amazing! A customer can double their money. Buy a card now to use later and the same amount is gifted to either:

  • Hudson Food Shelf
  • Coco's Heart Dog Rescue
  • Christisn Cuoboard Emergency Food Shelf

"Nostalgia gift cards can be purchased by emailing or calling at this time and cards will be mailed out immediately."

Store information at https://www.nostalgiahudson.com

— Rebecca Gates, Hudson

Wear your support for Hastings businesses

From OrderTeamGear.com by United Promotions:

Due to the coronavirus, restaurant traffic is down 60-80%. Many of your favorite restaurants can't stay in business 1-2 months with 80% fewer customers.

We have started this fundraiser to help your favorite spot make it through this trying time. Support the restaurants you love. Simply buy a shirt or hoody, give a donation or buy a gift card today to spend later. The restaurant gets cash now, & you help them stay around to continue serving the community!

We are partnering with the above listed local restaurants to help support them during this trying time.

All shirt/hoody profits will be split between all restaurants. Gift card purchases and donations will go directly to those individual restaurants.

The fundraiser will run March 19th - March 29th. All purchases will either be available for pickup at United Promotions on April 3rd beginning 3:00 PM or shipped (if shipping is selected).

LINK: http://www.orderteamgear.com/event-stores/support-hastings-restaurants-community-flash-fundraiser/

March 23

Much love for teachers in Hastings

Photo courtesy Dianne Steele of Hastings.
Photo courtesy Dianne Steele of Hastings.

Dianne Steele shared this photo of an art project by her two granddaughters and their mother. The signs spelling out "We love our teachers!" are visible from Christa McAuliffe Elementary School in Hastings.

Making sure seniors feel loved

Hello! I saw your post on Facebook about emailing you if you see acts of kindness! I wanted to send this to you!

This is my 6-year-old daughter, Sophie. She made a picture for each resident in the nursing home down the street because they were lonely due to the quarantine. She was not allowed in the building to pass them out, so she taped them to outside of each resident’s window! Here is the link to tiktok I made showing her efforts! I hope you enjoy it!


— Stephanie Splittgerber, Hammond, Wis.

March 22

Answering the call for sanitizer

Paul Werni of 45th Parallel in New Richmond will be producing hand sanitizer for some businesses. He has been inundated with calls from Westfields, Bush Beans out of Augusta Wis., Twin Cities businesses and others asking. (The state chamber WMC has been frantically looking for distilleries statewide who can address the shortfall.)

There will be limits of one gallon per business. You’ll have to bring in our own container.

—Rob Kreibich, New Richmond Chamber of Commerce

An actual sign of the times

John Becker at Red Wing Framing is making signage for local businesses "appointment only" and phone number on 20-by-20. No charge.

Thanks, Rivertown Multimedia, for encouraging us to look for the positive. We need it at this time!

Pam Horlitz, Red Wing

Feeding seniors and vulnerable adults

Red Wing Semcac may have closed its dining room to congregate meals, but staff members and volunteers are bringing meals Jordan Towers. The kitchen also cooks meals for programs in Bellechester, Goodhue, Lake City, Pine Island, Wabasha and Zumbrota,. Our numbers are going up every day. It's been a challenge but we have great employees that are doing everything they can to feed the elderly that need help. If anyone would like to make a cash donation to Semcac, we would so appreciate the help -- Semcac, 405 W. Fifth St., Red Wing, MN 55066. Everyone is doing their part to help our most vulnerable seniors. I had one senior break down sobbing because we delivered her a meal. It really breaks my heart.

Jackie Luikart, Red Wing Semcac coordinator

March 20

Pizza and cookies for domestic violence shelter

Red Wing Brewery and Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop donated 16 pizzas to the staff and clients at the Haven of HOPE Domestic Violence Shelter March 20. Submitted photo
Red Wing Brewery and Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop donated 16 pizzas to the staff and clients at the Haven of HOPE Domestic Violence Shelter March 20. Submitted photo

Red Wing Brewery and Hanisch Bakery & Coffee Shop donated 16 pizzas to the staff and clients at the Haven of HOPE Domestic Violence Shelter today.

Sara Kern, HOPE Coalition associate director

Serving the servers

Goodhue School staff members found treats and flowers awaiting them Thursday, March 19, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goodhue School staff members found treats and flowers awaiting them Thursday, March 19, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle and Jack Goodman of Goodhue prepare snacks/treats for the hard working staff at Goodhue School on Thursday March 19. They made treats for about 75 people.

Goodhue County Health & Human Resources

March 19

Keep supporting local businesses

Local businesses have amazed me by reaching out with curbside delivery/pickup. In addition ways we can help businesses stay open. I’m purchasing gift cards from my regular haunts and trying to spend in those cards what I would usually spend on coffee and eating out. The cards will give me something to look forward to when I can go there again.

Linda Thielbar, Red Wing, Minn.

Feeding students

The School District of River Falls is providing food support to 158 families by offering home delivery or drive-thru pickup. We started March 17 and will run every Tuesday+Friday for the duration of this school closure. Each Tuesday+Friday, large shopping bags are packed with meals to last for three to four days, to include cold sandwiches, fruit, milk, breakfast bars, muffins, etc.

Bus drivers are delivering 75% of the meals (the other 25% is drive-thru/pickup) and our food service staff, along with paraprofessionals are packing and organizing this mass production.

We are supporting kids and families not only with "at-home learning" activities but also with extensive food support.

We are proud of our staff and we know our district actions represent the values of this community. Together we stand, as we worked together during this unique time in our nation’s history.

Jamie Benson, River Falls (Wis.) School District superintendent

Lunch served to Woodbury Senior Living staff

It felt like a Woodbury Big Hug today! RPT Realty treated Woodbury Senior Living staff to lunch today from Panera. All individual box lunches of huge salads, sandwiches, crusty bread and cookies were delivered. Staff was so happy and glad, some wept knowing external community folks also thought of them so sincerely!

Laurie Mordorski, long-time marketing manager at Woodbury Lakes, secured enough lunches and drinks for all three parts of the campus — Villa, Estates and Health Care Center. How generous! We have a big staff.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Laurie, RPT Realty and Woodbury Lakes stores.

Margaret Wachholz, Woodbury Senior Living

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