Donation to Savage Fen Pointe Senior Center

Mary Cole (center) drops off bags full books and games to Lisa Krueger-Nussbaumer, Fen Pointe director of nursing (left), and Emily Allen, Fen Pointe activities director (right), in the lobby of the senior living facility in Savage.

As communities across the nation shutter and close down during the coronavirus outbreak, locals are setting up online spaces to offer support to elderly residents and others in need.

The recently formed Prior Lake Savage COVID 19 Community Support group on Facebook is over 1,300 members strong and growing. Formed by Sara Engle Anderson last week, the group has become a resource for residents to crowdsource their grocery runs and identify people who may have a particularly hard time during the outbreak.

“I just thought, let’s use social media as a tool for good,” Anderson said.

Early posts by Anderson and others kept residents up to date on which local grocery stores had restocked hand sanitizer or toilet paper and offered grocery deliveries for anyone concerned about leaving their home. As supplies got harder to find, people posted to ask if anyone could spare cleaning supplies.

Anderson said that one new mother who posted about needing just one bottle of hand sanitizer to bring her daughter home from the Newborn Intensive Care Unit got offers for 15 bottles within minutes.

As food shops and other businesses began closing down to limit person-to-person contact, laid off and furloughed workers posted in the group and offered their services as babysitters or caretakers.

Mary Cole joined the group last weekend and quickly offered to do grocery runs for anyone in need. Cole said Wednesday morning that she hasn’t had anyone take her up on her offer yet, so she’s decided to go looking for other ways she can help.

Cole reached out to a friend who works at Savage Senior Living at Fen Pointe to check in on how residents are doing during the first week of a multi-week restriction on visitors. People were “starting to go stir-crazy,” Cole said.

“They look forward to people visiting them from the outside, and they’re just in a dire situation when they can’t leave,” Cole said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cole drove over to the facility and met staff in the lobby to drop off bags of books and games pulled from her home collection. She plans on reaching out to another neighbor who works at McKenna Crossing in Prior Lake and making a similar offer.

“I’ve got a whole shelf full of books, and there’s still a lot more puzzles that could be donated,” Cole said.

Cole’s isn’t the only donation to local senior care facilities. Other members of the Facebook group said they dropped off homemade letters to start a pen pal program and took up donations to distribute over 20 boxes of Girl Scouts cookies to residents of one facility.

Others are organizing ways to keep everyone entertained during a time when the leading advice is stay home and follow social distancing protocols when out and about. Jessica Lane shared an idea for a window-shamrock scavenger hunt in the group on Monday, hoping to bring her young children and others some joy on a pared-down St. Patrick’s Day.

Over the Tuesday holiday Lane watched shamrocks appear at about a dozen homes in her neighborhood and many more via her post. She said they had somewhere between 15-20 children pass her home during their own hunts.

“It gives you that sense of camaraderie and community still, even if you can’t talk to each other,” Lane said. “We’re all doing the same thing for the same purpose, even if it is a insignificant as putting shamrocks in the window. It’s just nice to know we can still do something nice for kids.”

Lane said the scavenger hunt helped make a difference for her twin 4-year-old daughters. The afternoon walk and a video of their preschool teacher reading a St. Patrick’s Day story helped give the day a festive feel, even if they were mostly at home.

Lane said she plans to continue the scavenger hunt every couple days with her family, searching for animals, flowers and Easter Eggs in the coming days and weeks.

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