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The heroes with needles and thread

May 4, 2020

Three firefighters stand next to bags of donated face masks


When a crisis happens, most Minnesotans find it hard to stay on the sidelines and watch. They want to help, whether it’s donating blood or bringing a hotdish to a neighbor. And although COVID-19 seems almost insurmountable, Minnesotans are getting creative and finding ways to help keep each other safe.

Take the recent mask drive, for example. The governor and lieutenant governor launched the Minnesota Homemade Mask Drive in April. They asked any Minnesotan who was able to make face masks, then bring them to their nearest fire department between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 25. Fire departments from Hibbing to Cottage Grove to Cross Lake jumped on board to make it happen.

And just as they always do, Minnesotans rolled up their sleeves and got to work. One woman in St. Paul stayed up all night making more than 100 masks. She couldn’t go to the station herself to donate them, so a firefighter stopped by her home to pick them up. In Altura, a town with a total of 479 people, residents donated 280 masks. And several Cottage Grove residents dropped off 200 masks at a time.

The end result was that nearly 260 fire departments across the state collected more than 137,000 homemade face masks. Minnesota’s firefighters – no strangers to protecting and helping their communities – are now making sure the masks get to congregate care facilities like nursing homes and shelters, so that staff and residents have the means to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 amongst their vulnerable communities.

The Minnesotans who took the time to make masks for those in need deserve our thanks. Whether it was one mask or 200, their contribution is important and could help save a life. Likewise, we are lucky to have a talented and dedicated group of firefighters serving our state. From fighting massive structure fires to bringing little pieces of cloth to protect people from a pandemic, they’re keeping Minnesotans safe.

If you are still interested in making and donating masks but missed the drive, some fire departments are still keeping mask collection containers outside their departments. If they don’t have a bin, they will still have information posted about how you can contact your local emergency manager to donate masks that way.

Not every Minnesotan can be a health care worker or first responder or delivery person or teacher or grocery worker. But we can still help in ways big and small – as small as a needle and thread.