We're in this together
Shakopee community unites during COVID-19 pandemic
When times get tough, how we respond says a lot about a community.
Since Minnesota’s first COVID-19 diagnosis in early March, life is different. Schools and community gathering places are closed. Employees furloughed. Milestone celebrations missed. Everyone is experiencing a new normal as we adjust to social distancing.
Yet, the Shakopee community has pulled together – supporting local businesses, providing necessities for the isolating and struggling, showing appreciation for front line workers and sending heartfelt messages of inspiration.
“A strong community comes together when times are hard, and our residents are really caring for one another in useful and creative ways,” said Mayor Bill Mars.
For most people, this isn’t a surprise. Shakopee residents have pulled together before. After a fatal car accident involving Shakopee High School students in fall 2017, Kristine Pissah Robinson helped rally the community under the #ShakoStrong banner. She’s doing it again through a Shakopee COVID-19 Help Facebook group.
"COVID-19 Help started with several people chatting together in a random Facebook chatroom ... [about] the pains of what we foresaw happening with the COVID-19 virus taking hold," Robinson said. "As people realized they could be a part of the solution, the Facebook page grew exponentially."
The group helps match people in need with community members willing to assist, such as running errands for homebound residents, setting up clothing exchanges and distributing thank you cards to elder care facilities, first responders and more.
What started as porch drop-offs for groceries evolved into a weekly food distribution drive when the ShakoStrong non-profit partnered with Esperanza/New Creation Lutheran Church.
Each week, more than 60 volunteers prepare boxes and bags of food for Saturday distribution. In the beginning, the groceries were provided by Shakopee households and volunteers who used donations to purchase food. "Within weeks, non-profit agencies were donating an incredible amount of food to help feed our neighbors," Robinson said.
As of mid-May, more than 600 families participated in the weekly food distribution events.
"These efforts require an incredible team of unselfish, amazing volunteers who make a difference," said Robinson. "Each effort, no matter how small or large can make a huge difference in someone’s life."
While ShakoStrong has since shifted gears beyond the grocery program, board member Carrie Ferris says the organization continues to focus on helping Shakopee residents in times of need. "With the support of our generous donors, we plan to assist those individuals and organizations which reach out for specific needs. ...We stay committed to our neighbors and community. Please reach out, and we will assist how we can."
Help and Inspiration
Help can come in many shapes and forms. Many Shakopee residents have been using their sewing talents to make handmade face masks, first for front-line health care workers and later the general public. On April 25, the Shakopee Fire Department collected more than 1,000 homemade face masks through the governor’s statewide drive. The masks were donated to local senior care facilities.
Even the youngest community members have been lifting the community’s spirits with inspirational chalk messages, window clings and scavenger hunts.
“These gestures have a way of uniting us while everyone is stuck at home and missing friends and loved ones,” Mars said. “We remember we’re not alone; we’re all in this together.”