United we stand apart

Renee and Taylor Salge and Deb Steere sewed these masks for a local hospital. (Submitted photo)
Bethany Carson

Church bells, teddy bear hunts and the humming of sewing machines this past week have been a token of a Butler County community united in the face of the coronavirus pandemic which keeps us apart.

Churches in the Allison area are ringing their bells at 8 p.m. every evening to call the com-munity to unite in prayer. Ted-dy bears stand watch in the windows of houses and busi-nesses as “bear hunts” have been hosted in Clarksville, Allison, Greene and other area communities. And sewing ma-chines are running full speed ahead as seamstresses sew masks for health care workers.

This article was published in the March 26 edition of the paper, and much more work has been done to promote these efforts since.

Bear hunts

Bear hunts started in Clarksville on Sunday at 3 p.m., March 22 after local mom April Hoodjer noticed the idea on Facebook posted as a way to keep kids entertained. Alli-son and Greene followed suit with bear hunts on Monday.

Hundreds of homes and businesses put teddy bears and other stuffed animals in their windows.

“This was a way for every-body to get outside and wave at friends without getting too close. It was a way to show community support where eve-ryone could be involved in something with social distanc-ing…” Hoodjer said. “Every-body is stuck alone in their houses. It’s nice to be able to do something together… when activities can’t go on any-more.”

Hoodjer drove her kids down every street in Clarks-ville and counted 190 homes and businesses participating in town, not counting the many who participated in the coun-try.

Elderly community members, including those residing at the care center in Allison, enjoyed seeing the kids drive by and waving. And the kids had a lot of fun setting up their own bears.

Local mom Molly Hall said her kids enjoyed being able to see their friends – they were excited anytime someone drove by.

“It was such a good outlet for the kids and parents,” Cindy Wedeking said. “You could even see kids waving at their friends from other cars.

Jordan Stirling, who orga-nized the Allison bear hunt, which featured at least 257 stuffed animals, said the fun part was seeing everyone’s ideas for displays in store win-dows or even on bikes or snowmobiles.

“I feel a small town is always a tight knit community, and in times like these we all need each other. Our little town really showed their support for our kids today!” Stirling said. “I know we have a long road ahead of us yet, but if our town joins together like they did today (even in the simplest of ways), we are all going to pull through together! We love our community!”

Stitches of love

And that’s a love that local ladies are putting into every stitch as they sew masks for local healthcare workers and those at risk.

It’s a care for the well-being of others that emanates through the generations for some local families, like the Salges of Allison.

Taylor Salge, her mom Renee Salge and grandmother Deb Steere spent time together over the weekend making 55 masks for Unity Point Allen Hospital.

“We decided to make masks to fill the time that we had because of being off of work,” Taylor Salge said. “We also have a lot of friends and family that work in the medical field, and we knew that there was a need for them, so we decided it would be a good project.”

In Greene, Marnie Schmidt is among the seamstresses in-volved in similar efforts. So far, she’s made 10 masks for a couple local nurses, 35 masks for MercyOne in Mason City, 30 masks for the Charles City emergency room, and another 30 are in the works for a local nurse to take to Good Shep-herd with her.

Her goal is to sew 200 masks. The tough thing is she’s run out of ¼-inch elastic, and most of the local stores are out of stock, as seamstresses across the community step up. If she has the material for more, she plans to keep sewing until the day she can go back to work at North Butler Schools.

“This is what is great about small-towns. We come together when we need each other,” Schmidt said. “We have a lot of healthcare workers within our community, and for all they do for us, it only seems right to do something for them. They are valuable assets, and more so, beloved neighbors.”

Terry Roose, Activity Di-rector at Clarksville Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said several ladies have been making masks for the nursing home, and more masks are needed (as well as more 1/4-inch elastic.)

"If anyone has any they would like to donate, we would appreciate it. They can call me at Clarksville Skilled Nursing Home, 319-278-4900 or email me at cnhact@butler-bremer.com, and we can make arrangements to pick it up," Roose said.

Cindy Wedeking of Clarksville has sewn several masks for her daughter who works in healthcare in Wiscon-sin, and is now sewing a batch for local family and friends.

"I have many family mem-bers who work in healthcare and emergency medical services including our local ambulance service. I pray for their safety," Wedeking said.

For another group of Clarksville ladies, Sue Lodge is coordinating mask-sewing ef-forts.

On Saturday, Lodge sewed sewed 13 masks for a friend who works at Cedar Valley Hospice. The Clarksville seam-stresses have also sewn masks for the assisted living in town, for Occupational Therapy, and for various local healthcare workers who have sent in re-quests.

There are various patterns for masks, and the type sewn varies with demand. UnityPoint Health – Waterloo has recently updated their pattern and in-structions, now available on their Facebook page, and is accepting Olson Masks that go over respirators at Allen Hospi-tal.

Masks with three pleats are being sewn for Cedar Valley Hospice and certain other local entities.

“I decided to help because I thought it was a small way I could contribute to our healthcare professionals who are putting themselves out there every day,” said Shirley Clark of Clarksville. “I have made about 10 of them. They’re not difficult; they’re actually kind of fun to make.”

If you’re interested in help-ing with the sewing efforts and would like instructions for patterns, check online or call the facility you will be donat-ing to to verify what type of masks they need. If you have cotton fabric or elastic to do-nate for making masks or would like more information on local efforts, call Sue Lodge in Clarksville.

“I think this is such a great cause to support our medical teams and high risk individuals during this time of crisis,” said Renae Hempen. “We all have extra time on our hands right now and helping even in a small way like this gives you a sense of purpose that you are doing what you can!”

If you are a health care worker, at risk, or want to take precautions and need a mask, feel free to call Sue Lodge as well.

Preparedness is the key-word, and local seamstresses are on the job to make sure the community is ready for what-ever may come.

“We have no idea how bad it’s going to be. Hopefully all our quarantines and social dis-tancing help. But this is seri-ous, and it’s scary,” Lodge said. “Everyone works togeth-er to help out in a small town.”

Faith for the future

Every evening at 8 p.m. in the Allison and Clarksville area, you’ll hear church bells ringing, as the community is called to pray every night for their neighbors, medical work-ers, and those sick, suffering or grieving throughout the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We trust that in times such as these, Christ is ever present with us, a light shining brightly in the darkness, a light that no darkness can overcome. For so many, we find comfort in worship together in our parish buildings on a regular basis. However, during this Lenten season, we have found ourselves not in a metaphorical but a physical wilderness as we engage in physical distancing,” said Pastor Kyle Barton of St. James Lutheran Church in Allison. Because his congregation, like many others, cannot meet to worship, Barton encouraged them to join in prayer at 8 p.m. each evening, and rang the church’s bell as a reminder. Soon other congregations joined in ringing their church bells, and several (including St. James, Trinity Reformed, Alli-son Congregational Church and Dumont Reformed) have joined in broadcasting a prayer service on the local cable chan-nel and YouTube and Face-book every evening.

“The goal of that service is to draw people into a focused time on God each night, through prayer, Scripture read-ing and songs of praise,” said Pastor Jeremy Van Genderen of Trinity Reformed Church. “In a time of disruption, worry and fear, we want to provide a place to stand on the firm foundation of God!”

Similarly, St. John Lutheran Church in Vilmar is broadcast-ing their bell ringing on Face-book Live each night, and Pastor Christopher Martin is leading his congregation in a few minutes of prayer.

“In times like these, the Church has often turned to prayer, and taken a leading role in finding ways of be of help during times of major plague or pandemic,” Martin said.

St. John Lutheran Church in Clarksville is broadcasting its bell ringing on Facebook as well and, like many other churches, is keeping activity with ministries such as drop-ping off activity bags to Sun-day School kids.

And even the youngest members of local communities are stepping up to bring joy to others.

"We have kids making cards and writing letters to our residents. I just wish everyone could see just how much it really makes their day when they receive one..." said Terry Roose of Clarksville Skilled Nursing. "We have had family members donate treats and other food for the residents and staff here. We also have had people in the community and businesses donate supplies that are hard to come by. We truly believe this community comes together in a time of need."

On any given Sunday morning, social media is team-ing with local church services from nearly every denomina-tion. These services can be watched online for comfort and strength during this time of social distancing. Many church offices are also taking calls, if the elderly need assistance during this difficult time.

“May the familiar sound of hope, that has momentarily gone silent, hold us together in unity until we can meet again in person,” said Barton.


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