Brian and Sarah Ingram, owners of Hope Breakfast Bar in St. Paul, and their employees have been preparing and giving away thousands of free meals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now they're planning a special event on Friday, May 22 in which high school seniors who've missed prom can take part in a free "Prom Safe Distancing Drive-In Celebration."
Seniors – who must register online for a specific time slot – can get dressed up, then drive up outside the restaurant with their "special someone" to have their photo taken on a red carpet – and get a flower and a free take-home dinner.
"My son's a senior this year, and we saw firsthand the disappointment many seniors are experiencing," says Brian Ingram. "My wife and I wanted to figure out what we could do." Brian read about a similar event in Iowa, and decided to try it here.
Restaurant staff will be dressed in prom attire while wearing masks and gloves for safety. Photos will be posted digitally so family and friends can see them. Ingram says they've had about 100 people register so far – and they could take up to 500 people.
"It's probably not the prom they've dreamed of, but it's definitely a prom they'll remember," he says.
The Ingrams opened Hope Breakfast Bar last September and, from the beginning, it has had a mission of giving back to the community.
Located near Children's Minnesota Hospital in St. Paul, they've held fundraisers for organizations that help children with cancer.
So, when Minnesota restaurants were ordered to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hope Breakfast Bar began offering free meals to people in need. They started the free meals when schools were closed during the St. Paul teachers' strike in mid-March – and demand just snowballed from there.
"Since the pandemic began, we're serving anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 meals a day – about 10,000 a week," says Ingram
"We make individual meals for families of four, eight, 10," he adds. "Any family in need can call us at any time. Just tell us how many people are in your family and what you're looking for."
Most meals go to individuals and families, but Hope Breakfast Bar also delivers meals to local hospitals, hotels that are housing homeless youth, and to other outreach programs. Three days a week, they use their mobile community kitchen to deliver free meals at the Colin Powell Center in Minneapolis.
The restaurant has 10 employees and they've been able to continue paying everyone, says Ingram. They recently received a Paycheck Protection Loan through the Small Business Administration, which is very helpful, he adds. In May, they also started offering curbside food pick-up from a limited menu to help with expenses.
Funding for the free meals they give away comes from donations. "We've been so fortunate to have donations," says Ingram. "We plan to continue this as long as we have the funds."
Earlier in April, the Cantilever Distillery + Hotel in Ranier, Minn., donated 150 gallons of sanitizer for use by first responders and front-line workers in their area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Half went to care homes, emergency responders, fire departments and police stations in Koochiching County, Minn., while the other half went just across the border to Riverside Health Care in Fort Francis, Ontario, said Ed Gackley, general manager of Cantilever Distillery + Hotel.
"On both sides of the border, they were just thrilled we were able to help them," he said. "We are humbled and proud to be in a position to help our communities in a time of need."
Ranier is a small town three miles east of International Falls. The Cantilever Distillery + Hotel, which opened last year, received some funding from DEED’s Job Creation Fund.
The business takes its name from the historic cantilevered railroad bridge that connects Minnesota and Ontario – and which reputedly served as a conduit for moonshine smuggled into the U.S. during Prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Illegal alcohol was transported from Canada into the U.S. some 100 years ago, Gackley noted, and the alcohol-based sanitizer recently took a reverse trip across the Rainy River into Canada.
The boutique hotel is currently FEMA-approved and open for essential travelers.
"FREE FOOD" is what the sign says in all capital letters. And it's true. Since April 9, Michael Foods in Gaylord has given away food in Hutchinson, Gaylord, Glencoe, Norwood Young America, Le Sueur, and Arlington.
During about a three-hour window, cars line up for blocks while Michael Foods employees and volunteers – wearing masks and gloves – put a 40-pound container of food into each vehicle.
"We give them 10 pounds of diced potatoes, 10 pounds of shredded hash browns, two six-pound bags of mashed potatoes, two dozen hard-cooked eggs and three cartons of liquid egg product – which is great for quiche," said Amy Black, HR Manager for the Michael Foods Gaylord and Le Sueur facilities.
The company has always given to food shelves, but it was facing an over-supply of product because of COVID-19-induced slowdown in the food service industry, with restaurants only able to offer take-out service.
"This was our way of giving back to the community," said Black. "This is perishable product, and we didn't want it to end up as waste."
The initiative came through the company's corporate office in Minnetonka and is also being done at its locations in other states. No other give-away locations or dates have been announced.
Michael Foods employs about 700 people at its Gaylord and Le Sueur facilities where it produces liquid, pre-cooked, and hard-cooked egg products. Black says that while they've scaled back production a bit, it's still going strong, and that retail sales have increased to supermarkets.
Black estimates that in the six South Central Minnesota communities, they've given away over 396,000 pounds of food – 40 pounds at a time.
"People have seemed surprised by the amount of food they've received," said Black. "They've been very appreciative."
"Mostly, I think everyone enjoys seeing each other – even from their cars – and seeing some positivity out there."
Minnesota Central Kitchen is bringing together caterers, food banks, community meal providers, restaurants, and large businesses to feed hungry Minnesotans and help employ restaurant workers who’ve been laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This partnership works to prepare and distribute thousands of free individual and family-style meals packaged for take-out each day at close to 40 locations using both volunteers and paid food service staff.
Partners include Chowgirls Killer Catering, Second Harvest Heartland, Bachelor Farmer and Alma restaurants, The Good Acre, Loaves and Fishes, Appetite for Change, Compass Group, UnitedHealth Group, and Cargill.
Chowgirls’ kitchen in northeast Minneapolis became the first location to prepare meals - and other sites have joined the effort, providing kitchen space, staff, supplies, and food. The Good Acre stepped up to provide critical freezer space to store the influx of food donations.
Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation’s largest hunger relief organizations, has been coordinating the logistics, while Loaves & Fishes and Appetite for Change distribute the free meals.
UnitedHealth Group earlier this month started an effort to provide 21,000 meals a week through the cafeteria at its Optum headquarters in Eden Prairie. Employees of Compass Group, a food service company, are assembling the meals.
Meanwhile, Cargill announced this week that it would provide additional kitchen space and employment opportunities - as well as 4,000 meals each week for Minnesotans - through the cafeteria at their headquarters.
The Cargill Foundation is also contributing $1 million to add a distribution site in North Minneapolis with Appetite for Change and to support the production of 120,000 meals across all of Minnesota Central Kitchen’s sites.
This effort has already gotten over 100,000 meals out into the community since launching just four weeks ago - and is currently producing 8,000 meals a day. Minnesota Central Kitchen is working toward a goal of distributing up 50,000 meals every week as long as there are people in need due to this outbreak.
"Effectively battling COVID-19 is going to take all of us coming together, putting our best innovations forward, to make sure everyone is safe and fed," said Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland.
Wintergreen, an iconic outdoor performance clothing manufacturer in Ely, is helping with the COVID-19 crisis by producing protective medical gear, including facemasks, medical gowns and headgear for Iron Range and North Shore clinics and hospitals.
The initiative began in late March when Wintergreen owner Sue Schurke and her crew, along with the help of many home sewers, produced about 300 facemasks to give away to community members, staff at nursing homes, and other Elyites in need.
Schurke conferred with her daughter, a physician's assistant, on the most effective facemask pattern. Wintergreen cut the fabric and delivered it to home sewers who then completed the masks and gave them away at no charge to community members.
"It was quite a production effort. We cut the fabric at our Wintergreen shop, packaged the fabric and tie strings in plastic baggies and then left them on the front porch of home sewers in order to practice social distancing," said Schurke. "It reminded me of the stories my 96-year-old mother tells of the community spirit during World War II and how everyone did was what needed to help."
Days later, Schurke was contacted by North Shore Health Hospital and Care Center in Grand Marais to ask if she could make protective medical gowns. They needed the gowns to be made of plastic that could withstand sanitizing in order to be reusable.
Schurke immediately began to research materials, as well as develop a pattern on her laser-driven computerized cutting machine. Hospital doctors and administrative staff traveled to Ely to meet with Schurke and her staff as they finalized the materials and pattern to be used, and tested a sample gown.
Soon after, Ely Bloomenson Community Hospital contacted Schurke to ask if she could make medical gowns using Tyvek. Then St. Luke's reached out to Wintergreen to make a helmet-style hat for its health care workers to wear when caring for COVID-19 patients.
"We, like many other business owners, want to help right now," said Schurke. "My staff and I are so pleased to be able to provide something of great need to the essential workers and community members as they battle the coronavirus on the frontlines."
Wintergreen is charging only for labor and materials for the gowns. Schurke is forgoing any profit normally involved with pre-design, cutting time and other operational expenses. Her employees are practicing social distancing and are stationed about 12 feet apart.
Schurke is in contact with other northern Minnesota sewing shops and quilting groups that have similar projects underway to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, they're collaborating on optimal patterns, fabric options, and materials sources.
With COVID-19 putting massive demand on Mayo Clinic's supply of face shields, Mayo Clinic and Pepin Manufacturing in Lake City, Minn., have forged a partnership to produce the much-needed personal protective equipment.
From April 1 through May 8, Pepin Manufacturing is making about 300,000 protective face shields for Mayo – with help from Mayo staff. To supplement Pepin Manufacturing's production crews, almost 40 Mayo staff members have been assembling and packaging the masks.
This unique production project has required eight to 10 staff members to fill two shifts - and, so far, 39 Mayo staff members have signed up to fill these shifts. About half are from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, the rest are Mayo Clinic Health System staff from Lake City and Red Wing locations.
"We're so impressed with how Pepin Manufacturing has stepped up to fill this need for us, and equally impressed by our employees who are doing their part to ensure these face shields reach their colleagues," said Christopher Gulden, a Mayo Clinic Health Systems operations administrator in the Southeast Minnesota region.
Justin Ek donned a pink and white Easter Bunny costume this week and started making visits to small businesses, nursing homes, day care centers, a children's hospital, and private residences around the Mankato area.
Visits have been so popular that he's fully booked every 15 minutes, and he has enlisted other family members and a company employee to help out. He already owned one Easter Bunny costume, but he borrowed another from Fun.com, a seasonal costume rental company in North Mankato.
"We've made hundreds of visits this week," said Ek, a co-owner of Bellissimo Paint and Coatings, a family-owned Mankato painting and home improvement company. "We're trying to spread some cheer and are seeing a lot of smiles."
The two Easter Bunnies are careful to maintain plenty of social distance from other people during visits – by remaining outside and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of two large masks sewed by Ek's grandmother.
Ek noted that many small businesses in the community are stepping up during the pandemic – making cloth masks and preparing food for kids who don't have lunches.
He thought this was something his company could do to help keep small businesses in people's minds. For instance, the Easter Bunny stopped at a local restaurant to promote that day's take-out special.
While his painting business – which he co-owns with his parents – is still able to run crews for exterior paint jobs, he worries about the small businesses that are closed.
"As a business community, we're all in this together and will come out of it better off if we help each other," Ek said.
What do SPAM® Museum employees do when their museum is closed? They help deliver meals to seniors. In Austin, Minn. - headquarters of global food giant Hormel Foods - the company is ordering 300 lunches each weekday from area restaurants.
This effort brings together the Mower County Senior Center, United Way, SMART (Southern Minnesota Area Rural Transit), and Hormel Foods. The meals have been purchased from 12 area establishments and the company is donating most of the meals to help seniors during the pandemic. The company's SPAM® Museum employees - called SPAM™bassadors - are helping deliver the meals to seniors throughout the community.
"When an opportunity arose to help seniors suffering from food insecurity in our community, we wanted to be on the front lines helping keep this at-risk generation fed and safe," said Savile Lord, manager of the SPAM® Museum. "At the same time, this also provides meaningful work for our SPAM™bassadors while the museum is closed."
The lunch program is also taking place in other communities around the state with Hormel Foods-owned plants and offices. The company's Jennie-O team is purchasing meals from local businesses in Pelican Rapids, Melrose, Willmar, Montevideo, and Faribault. Those meals – which help sustain local restaurants – go to Hormel Foods employees who are working in the critical food production industry.
A group of business owners from Minneapolis' Midtown Global Market has launched a GoFundMe campaign called Meals for Medics. This allows restaurants to continue to pay their employees as well as to feed health care workers.
Midtown Global Market is delivering free meals to workers. Aiming to raise $10,000 to feed the Allina Health Systems staff at neighboring Abbott Northwestern Hospital, they've have raised over $16,000 so far.
A complete hot meal will be delivered for each $10 donation, and donations will be matched by the Minneapolis Foundation. Midtown Global Market businesses - including Jakeeno's Trattoria, Manny's Tortas, Pham's Rice Bowl, Grass Roots Gourmet, Hot Indian, Sabbai Express, and Produce Exchange - are partnering to provide the meal packages.
Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation, said this is a great way to "help the incredible heroes on the front lines of health care."
Stratasys, based in Eden Prairie and Israel, is coordinating a group of more than 150 companies, universities, and even high school robotics teams to make face shields for health care workers using 3D printers.
Stratasys says it has received requests for 350,000 face shields and needs 40,000 a week to meet demand. It was expecting the combined effort to produce 11,000 shields the first week and 16,000 the second week. It is calling out for any 3D print shops interested in helping.
Among those answering the call are high school robotics students around the state - some of whom are able to print face shields at home. The students are teaming up with Stratasys and Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis to make face shields based on specifications.
Organizations can request 3D printed products to help with the crisis, offer 3D printing capacity, or request 3D printers or material for medical- or safety-related purposes at www.stratasys.com/covid-19.
"I have never seen collaboration across our industry the way I've been seeing it over the last couple weeks," said Stratasys Healthcare Segment Leader Scott Drikakis, who is directing the company's COVID-19 response in the Americas. "This rapid, adaptive response is what 3D printing does exceptionally well, and I'm very proud of our employees and partners."
MyPillow Inc., the pillow giant located in Chaska, has retooled 75% of its production toward making face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19. And they’re shipping them out as fast as they can make them - even driving them south to Martin County’s hospital and doctors.
Since the end of March, the company had been making 10,000 cotton masks per day, but it plans to significantly increase production in April.
Michael Lindell, MyPillow inventor and CEO, said it took about three weeks to shift production because it was difficult at first to get a supply of elastics needed to create the masks. At this time, he says components are not available to make other types of masks, so his company is focused on making the 100% cotton masks.
"It’s very labor-intensive. One employee for eight hours can only make 100 to 120 masks," he said. "Now we want to ramp up and do about 50,000 a day."
MyPillow made the jump in production by operating two shifts a day and calling on its production partners, who make supplies like mattress toppers for them, to also begin making face masks.
Since MyPillow operations began in 2004 the privately-owned company has sold 47 million pillows.
The masks will be going to hospitals in Minnesota and throughout the country.
"This has been a great unifier of everybody: private sector, government, everybody getting involved and uniting as a country and as a people. We show what we can do when the chips are down," said Lindell.
Masks will not be available to the public to purchase.
Three Minneapolis distilleries - Tattersall Distilling, Du Nord Craft Spirits, and Brother Justus Whiskey Co. - switched from making spirits to producing hand sanitizer to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, they're joining together to get the sanitizer where it's needed most.
They've launched the All Hands campaign, an effort to produce hand sanitizer for groups and organizations in need. The distilleries plan to give most of the sanitizer away, but may also sell some of what they produce to help finance the operation.
They estimate they can produce 35,000 gallons of hand sanitizer in April. The All Hands campaign will work to get it to high-risk groups - those living or working in care facilities and homeless shelters - as well as the workers on the front lines of the pandemic. Organizations serving populations with an elevated COVID-19 risk can place an order for hand sanitizer on the website.
The first batch of 9,000 gallons of hand sanitizers will be produced from about 7,000 gallons of ethanol purchased from Glacial Grains Spirits in Benson. Hawkins Inc., a chemical company in Roseville, is also contributing to the effort.
Pictured (from left) are Chris Montana of Du Nord Craft Spirits, Jon Kreidler of Tattersall Distilling, and Phil Steger of Brother Justus.
Tattersall, Du Nord, and Brother Justus are getting some financial support for the All Hands campaign from the Minneapolis-based Graves Foundation, but the distilleries are otherwise paying out-of-pocket to make the hand sanitizer.
There are other ways to help this effort. If you have access to spray bottles in bulk, they ask that you reach out through the All Hands website.
Troy Reding – owner of Rock Elm Tavern, with locations in Maple Grove and Plymouth, and Holman’s Table in St. Paul – is finding ways to help others during the COVID-19 shutdown of restaurants' dine-in service.
As a supporter and volunteer at the Plymouth TreeHouse – which offers programs and support for teens – Reding reached out to the nonprofit to provide fully cooked meals and some groceries to the youth and their families served by the Plymouth site.
Rock Elm delivered meals along with bags of produce and dairy products with the help of staff members and volunteer drivers from Plymouth Covenant Church.
On March 18, Reding and his small crew cooked turkey dinners for 16 families and 65 people. Then, they did the same the following day at the Maple Grove location for youth and families served by the New Hope and Brooklyn Center TreeHouse sites. They fed another 81 people during the week of March 23.
The restaurant industry in Minnesota has been hit hard by COVID-19. Reding was among many restaurant owners who has laid off staff members, suspended dine-in services, and reverted to take-out only. He offers this advice on how to keep local restaurants going:
"The best thing people can do is order take-out food from any of the independent restaurants if they want to see them survive," he said.
A fundraising effort is underway to raise money to continue making weekly meals for TreeHouse families, as well as others in need.
"I have employees who aren’t working right now who believe in giving back and will come in and volunteer," Reding said. He plans to continue serving at-risk youth and their families for as long as funds allow.
Take-out food is a big part of Minnesota restaurant business during this time, and Rock Elm is no exception. Takeout is available at both Rock Elm locations.
Tom Hanson is the owner of three Duluth restaurants and a cocktail lounge - Duluth Grill, OMC Smokehouse, Corktown Deli & Brews, and Noble Pour - all currently closed because of the pandemic.
"When this COVID-19 virus hit, we decided we could do one of two things," Hanson said. "Do nothing, or go and do something big."
That "something big" was the launch of Lifting Lincoln Park, a fundraising initiative designed to help the businesses and residents of Lincoln Park, a lower-income neighborhood that has been on the rise thanks in large part to the businesses that have chosen to locate there.
Lifting Lincoln Park is asking for a $50 payment that would go toward:
"We’re trying to stabilize our own business with the cookbook pre-orders and also put money back into the community,” said Hanson. "If our fellow business owners go out of business, we will all suffer."
He noted that the recent cancellation of this year’s Grandma’s Marathon in June is another blow to businesses during summer tourism season when many Duluth hospitality businesses make much of their annual profit.
"I’ve been in business 40 years, and this is really tough," he said. "And, it’s different than past ups and downs because the whole community is experiencing it together."
Printing and graphic design businesses in some Minnesota communities have stepped up to help get the word out that many restaurants are still open for delivery or take-out service. Here are examples of two Greater Minnesota businesses offering free signage to local restaurants:
Horejsi Graphics in New Ulm produces vinyl vehicle wraps and graphics, signs, banners, decals, clothing, paint protection film and more. Owner Randy Horejsi and his employees wanted to help out local restaurant owners whose operations are now closed to the dine-in trade.
They’re offering a free 2’ x 4’ banner to hang outside their restaurant to let people know takeout and delivery are options. So far, he has made about 15 banners for local restaurants.
"It's not much, but being a small business, we know how important it is to have money coming in to keep going," Horejsi said.
Nelson Brothers Printing in Fergus Falls is also offering free signage for local restaurants offering food delivery or curbside pickup. Nelson Brothers got the word out using the personal touch with social distancing: A typed flyer was distributed to restaurants. Owner Mike Breen said two businesses have asked for their help – and more are considering it.
Medical device manufacturer Medtronic is sharing the design specifications and code for its portable ventilator, the PB 560 ventilator, so that anyone can use those specs to build their own ventilators.
The company, which has its operational headquarters in Fridley, Minn., said the design is particularly well-suited for "inventors, startups, and academic institutions" looking to spin up production quickly and create their own adapted designs.
"Medtronic recognizes the acute need for ventilators as lifesaving devices in the management of COVID-19 infections. We know this global crisis needs a global response," Executive Vice President Bob White said in a statement. "By openly sharing the PB 560 design information, we hope to increase global production of ventilator solutions for the fight against COVID-19."
Manufacturers have been boosting production of ventilators because of the pandemic, but health experts expressed concern about whether there will be enough in the coming weeks.
WOODCHUCK USA was founded in Minneapolis with the mission of putting nature back into people's lives – and they plant a tree with every product they sell.
Recently, the company shifted production of sustainably sourced, high-end custom wood products to manufacturing face shields/personal protective equipment for the medical sector. The company says it’s producing 55,000 units per day and plans to produce 105,000 units per day soon.
"With true American spirit, the brains and talent of our team came together," said Benjamin VandenWymelenberg, founder and chairman. "I am proud beyond words for what this team is doing for our country, and the lives this product will save."
The University of Minnesota graduate wasted no time when he heard about the shortage of personal protective gear. In mid-March his company designated half its capacity to making face shields, built to Johns Hopkins Medicine’s standards.
"We designed something within a couple of hours, and the next day we were producing 30,000 units a day," he said.
In no time at all, Woodchuck had more requests than they could accommodate, so VandenWymelenberg moved 100% of the company’s production to manufacturing the face shields.
VandenWymelenberg said WOODCHUCK USA has had orders for 1.6 million units already being shipped to hospitals nationwide, including Harvard University and Masonic Children’s Hospital at the University of Minnesota.
He said that he’s encouraged to see that businesses nationwide are stepping up to meet this challenge on a scale he’s never seen in his lifetime.
Bedford Industries, an international leader in twist-tie manufacturing, is now a key player in the battle to halt the transfer of coronavirus. And, it received shout outs from Governor Walz and DEED Commissioner Steve Grove during recent press briefings for its ability to retool.
The Worthington company is poised to begin making more than 100,000 face shields each day, thanks to staff ingenuity and the required product registration from the federal Food and Drug Administration.
Their prototype of the shield – a clear plastic shield that covers the entire face – drew consensus from hospitals, health care providers and others that the face shield could do the most good. Some of these will be given to local first responders and essential services in or near Worthington, and the new face shield is being sought by the U.S. Army.
The company started in a garage in Worthington and grew to be the largest twist tie manufacture in the world. When they learned of the severe medical supply shortage to protect people on the frontlines from COVID-19, the Bedford team of engineers and production people went to work.
"Just within a day we had prototypes ready to go and into the hands of our local hospitals to test out and give us some feedback," said Bedford Industries President Jay Milbrandt.
Bedford Industries has long made the nose wire used in medical masks. But this new shield goes one step further. "It’s easy to put on and easy to adjust. The intention is it’s used with those N-95 respirator masks to protect them against splashes and the idea is to get multiple uses out of the N-95 masks," Milbrandt explained.
The company said it recently produced 70,000 shields in a 24-hour period. Bedford Industries is trying to distance its staff where it can and to keep employees as healthy as possible.
Local manufacturers, health care providers, and an economic development organization in Fergus Falls are partnering to produce personal protective equipment and other supplies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In just a few days, Excel Plastics, which makes point of purchase displays for merchandising, was able to pivot to produce a prototype that will result in the production of 4,000 face shields for Lake Region Healthcare (LRH). Meanwhile, Shoretex Products, which makes boat covers and other marine accessories, is shifting production capacity to sew protective gowns for LRH. Dr. Joshua Overgaard, MD, an LRH physician and hospitalist, is shown in the photo wearing prototypes of the products.
This effort began when Annie Deckert, CEO of Greater Fergus Falls, the city's private, nonprofit economic development arm, began working with Joe Bichler – supply chain director for Lake Region Healthcare, Prairie Ridge Hospital and Health Services, and Mill Street Residence Assisted Living – to come up with a solution for projected shortages of face masks, shields, gowns, and other PPE. Deckert began approaching local manufacturers to help.
One of her initial contacts was Craig Koefod, owner of Excel Plastics, who was quick to support the idea of making plastic face shields to protect local health care workers. "As a local family-owned business, we pride ourselves not only on making great products, but also in the way we care for our employees and our community," Koefod said. "We are privileged to help in any way we can."
Another connection was made with Sharon Heifort, co-owner of Shoretex Products. "We were eager to respond to Annie's inquiry of our company's production capacity and ability to sew gowns for LRH. Bill Kasper, my partner and I, feel very fortunate to be able to keep our employees working during these uncertain times and help our local hospitals."
GFF is asking other businesses in the area that can manufacture personal protective equipment items to contact them at 218-321-2079 for more information. Bichler and Deckert are also working to connect other regional health care organizations and first responders to identify their needs and connect them with these local resources.
Mickman Brothers, a family-owned and operated garden center, emptied their shelves recently to hand out free flowers to families during this time of social distancing and isolation. Cars lined up and down the block in Ham Lake to receive a variety of pansies, paired with a pot and some soil. Mickman Brothers' employees said they gave away over 1,200 flowers in less than a half hour. "We wanted to give back to the community and be a light they can count on," said CEO Steve Hegele. "Most parents are looking for new ways to help and educate their children, and most kids are looking for something new, too – hopefully this is some color and fun to help during a darker time." Employees handing out the flowers took precautions not to come in direct contact with the recipients. Mickman Brothers is a landscaping, irrigation, garden center and national holiday wreath fundraising business in the North Metro area.
Hilltop Bar and Grill in Dawson is getting essential food items for customers when they can't get them in local grocery stores. Co-owners Keith Knutson and Colin Bergeson are offering at cost essentials like bread, eggs, ground beef, and other items they can get from their distributors – but that might be sold out at local stores. Knutson says that Hilltop isn't looking to take business away from local grocery stores, but it wants to make sure local residents have the food they need. "Reach out to us and we will do what we can to help," he noted. "We are humbled by the amount of support we've received over the last couple days," added Knutson, talking about the restaurant and hospitality closure order that has impacted his business. "Not only with the amount of take-outs, but the kind words we have received – wishing us the best of luck during these times! We understand we certainly aren't the only types of business impacted by this hardship, and wish everyone the best of luck!"
Blooming Grounds coffee shop in Winona is making lunches for the elderly in cooperation in the local senior center, and volunteers are delivering them. Blooming Grounds Owner Amy Jo Marks jumped into action to provide lunches for children in need when schools shut down. After the school district started providing lunches for children, she switched to helping seniors in need. Local residents and businesses including Ziebell's, Winona Health, and Rochester Wholesale Fruit have donated lunch supplies - from peanut butter and jelly to apples and fruit cups. Local volunteers are needed to help with packing and delivering the lunches to local seniors. Blooming Grounds is also looking for volunteers to pack lunches and deliver them to seniors; find out more on Blooming Grounds’ Facebook page.
Ice Castle Fish House and RV in Montevideo donated the use of a portable building to CCM Health for drive-thru COVID-19 testing. Montevideo area residents with respiratory symptoms who can no longer manage their illness at home call ahead to CCM Health, are asked a series of questions, and if it's determined they should come in for testing, they drive up to the portable building which is in a parking lot. They then wait in the car for staff to take their test. Having this portable building prevents people who may be infected with COVID-19 from coming into the main clinic and potentially infecting other patients and staff. “We would like to thank Ice Castle Fish House and RV for donating this building to be used as our new drive-thru testing station,” said CCM Health in a statement. "We are grateful for the community we serve and love to see everyone coming together during this time of need."